Staff Show 2017: Alanna Reeves

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2017 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 17, 2017.

Alanna Reeves, “Picking”

Alanna Reeves. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I work as a Museum Assistant within The Phillips Collection. My favorite job perk is access to the museum’s library. I love to do research via books and it’s an amazing collection of artist biographies and material study.

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

I’m really enamored with Milton Avery. His works are very quiet and playful. After being part of the Phillips community for only a few months, I could see that his loose application of paint was beginning to influence aspects of my work. I see it contrast heavily with influences of Jacob Lawrence as well.

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

I love the rooms in the original Phillips house. Particularly, I am interested in the way contemporary artists have used the rooms for Intersection exhibitions. There are a lot of nooks and crannies to experiment with and I have found the rooms to be completely transformed into new environments when these artists pair their own work with that of works from the collection. I also appreciate that the Phillips has maintained these older spaces with their original architecture and can’t wait for them to reopen following the building enhancement.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2017 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

This piece is one that I created after a trip to Jamaica, the birthplace of my paternal grandmother. I hadn’t been there in over a decade and it was an important return trip for me as I’ve recently been exploring ways in which hyphen-Americans regard and idealize their homelands. For me, Jamaica and my relation to it is an essential part of my identity and yet I am displaced from it, physically and otherwise. I try to reflect on ways my American identity affects my experience in Jamaica and how I can be a responsible visitor in a country that has a complex relationship in terms of its tourist economy. My piece Picking is an example of an idealistic environment and the instantaneous actions that occur within that space.

About the artist

Alanna Reeves was born in Washington, D.C., 1993. She is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design where she earned a BFA in Illustration and concentration in History of Art and Visual Culture. During her time there she participated in the institution’s European Honors Program. This semester-long program offers students who feel they have exhausted the pre-established curriculum the opportunity to conduct independent studio projects, all while in the heart of Rome, Italy. This study resulted in an intense focus on language, cultural perception, and origin. Having returned to her hometown, Reeves now engages with the District’s artist community via education and art administration with a particular interest in the non-profit sector. She currently serves as founder and editor of HUE: Culture, Color, Theory zine which has been accepted into university special collections.

The 2017 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 3 through September 17, 2017.

Staff Show 2016: Gloria Duan

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Gloria Duan, ~, Cyanotype on silk habotai with handrolled edges

Gloria Duan, “~”


Gloria Duan

Gloria Duan, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Gloria Duan, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Born on the first day of spring in the last hour of winter, in Amherst, Massachusetts, Gloria Duan is a 2015 BFA graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a 2011 graduate of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She is interested in establishing artistic, cultural, and philosophical significance for new innovations and discoveries in science and technology beyond their traditionally practical purposes. She currently lives in the Washington, DC metro area.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I work as a Museum Assistant. In the mornings before the museum opens to the public, I like to walk around the galleries and view the collection without another soul around!

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

Milton Avery is my favorite artist in the collection. I appreciate his use of color and compositional directives. I see a subtle elegance in his hand similar to Giorgio Morandi. More specifically, in Morandi’s still life paintings and Avery’s late landscapes, there is “solid in void and void in solid” …in space vibrating with its own emptiness.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

My favorite gallery within the Phillips is the first floor of the Sant Building. I think the high ceilings and windows makes the space especially suitable for displaying a wide range of artworks.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

The painting on display at the 2016 Staff Show is part of an ongoing series that, at a future date, will ideally be un-stretched and suspended in outer space, for the astro-viewer to float through and around as an immersive experience.

This series of paintings, its process, and ideal installation, aims to semantically describe mutable and ephemeral subjects, phenomena, and materials, through their un-guessed synchronicities. Topics include water, wind, shadow, light, glass, waves, pure energy, suspension, floating, and universal expansion. The circular silk cutout of this piece, and the Mobius forms seen in additional works from the series, are inspired by Robert Mangold’s “Ring” series. Morris Louis’ painting practice, in which he loosely tacked canvas to stretcher frames, informs the cyanotype coating process. Out of many light sensitive photo processes, the cyanotype was chosen for its Prussian hues. Quoting Goethe, “we love to contemplate blue not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it.” The indexing of photograms includes hand-blown glass objects and their shadows, which channel, reflect, and block UV light. Finally, as mentioned before, my aim for this series is to bring painting into space, in order to conceptualize and advance the emerging genre of Space Art.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

The Dancing Trees of Milton Avery’s Imagination

Avery_Dancing Trees

Milton Avery, Dancing Trees, 1960. Oil on canvas, 52 x 66 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection © 2015 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In his mid-seventies, Milton Avery brought decades of visual experience to bear on his perceptions of the world and an inclination toward simplification that may have intensified with his advancing age. At times, the artist’s late paintings veer so close to pure abstraction that only their titles enable the viewer to recognize the scene that has stirred Avery’s imagination. Such is the case here: three monumental cones swaying in the wind take flight as trees en pointe, their girth making for a comic ballet.

A few weeks ago, prompted by a free-writing exercise based around this piece, we asked visitors to Seeing Nature and social media followers what they saw in this work without providing the title. Answers included floating pizza slices, icebergs, a gnome village, stingrays, and more. What do you see?