Staff Show 2018: Charles Chen

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in This Is My Day Job: The 2018 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 30, 2018.

The Intersection of Symbolism and Realism by Charles Chen

The Intersection of Symbolism and Realism by Charles Chen

Tell us about yourself.

I am an artist and museum professional. I currently work as a Museum Assistant at The Phillips Collection and an Interpretive Visitor Guide at the US Capitol. I have also served at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Newseum. I studied studio art and museum studies for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, respectively. As an artist, my mediums of interest include printmaking, works on paper, digital art, and photography. I am interested in documenting social justice and inequality, urban culture, and politics.

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 am a Museum Assistant. I safeguard the collections and help make visitors’ experience memorable and enjoyable. But when visitors are not around, I get to study the museum’s world-class paintings up close, observing artists’ skillful and expressive techniques and realizing small details and revelations over time and repeated observation.

Photo of Charles Chen

Charles Chen

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

John Sloan and Pierre Bonnard

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

Staircase of the original Phillips House

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2018 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

I work in digital and traditional art mediums but I am drawn most to photography, specifically the subject matter of street photography. A native New Yorker and urbanite, I am drawn to the energy of recording humanity and all its interaction with the urban environment. This tongue-and-cheek scene explores an every day scene while playfully contrasting different artistic movements.

This Is My Day Job: The James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view through September 30, 2018. 

Staff Show 2018: Justin Baun

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in This Is My Day Job: The 2018 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 30, 2018.

Gaze by Justin Baun

Gaze by Justin Baun

Tell us about yourself.

There was never a time in my young life where I wasn’t drawing or making things. I would express myself artistically from a very young age. Today, at 24 years old, I still push myself to express my perceptions through the arts. I am currently living in the proverbial Anytown, USA known as Westminster, Maryland. Living in suburbia has only expanded my impulse to capture the beauty in simple things. These passions come from my need to expand my perspective and allow me to express myself to the fullest extent.

Photography has always been a natural practice for me. I’ve been taking pictures since my earliest memories. I love capturing images on digital and film cameras and love to experiment with the photography process. Playing with light, movement, and balance, I express my perceptions as best I can through the lens.

I attended Carroll Community College and graduated with an Associates of Applied Arts in Graphic Design. As an aspiring designer, I strive to distill complex concepts into simple forms of communication. The same principles apply to my photography as well.

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’m a Museum Assistant. Our job is to guard the art and engage visitors in a dialogue about the art when asked. I think the most interesting part of the job is the exposure to the art for such large periods of time. Standing next to a Mattise for eight hours at a time really allows you to analyze and understand it on an intimate level.

Photo of Justin Baun

Justin Baun

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Alexander Calder, Anni Albers, Alex Katz, and Alfred Stieglitz

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

The bedroom galleries in the House are really cozy and are a wonderfully intimate space to view the art.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2018 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

Gaze was shot with a Fujifilm X-T1 late last summer. To me, the image brings a glimpse of hope and optimist as the subject gazes upward at the expansive sky. I kept the title vague as to allow the viewer to assign their own meaning to it.

This Is My Day Job: The James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view through September 30, 2018. 

Performers of the Belle Époque: Jane Avril

Each week for the duration of the exhibition, we’ll focus on one work of art from Toulouse-Lautrec Illustrates the Belle Époque, on view Feb. 4 through April 30, 2017.

Jane Avril 1893_three versions_Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1893. Brush and spatter lithograph. Key stone printed in olive green on wove paper. Unrecorded trial proof, 47 5⁄8 × 34 5⁄8 in. Private collection; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1893. Brush and spatter lithograph, key stone printed in olive green on wove paper. Trial proof, 47 9⁄16 × 33 7⁄8 in. Private collection; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril, 1893. Brush and spatter lithograph, printed in five colors. Key stone printed in olive green, color stones in yellow, orange, red, and black on wove paper, 48 13⁄16 × 36 in. Private collection

“I owe him the fame that I enjoyed, dating from his first poster of me.” —Jane Avril

Toulouse-Lautrec’s inventive posters established the star status of Jane Avril. In 1893 critic Arsène Alexandre described their collaboration: “Painter and model together have created a true art of our time: one through movement, one through representation.” These works mark the dancer’s debut at the Jardin de Paris on the Champs Élysées, commissioned by the upscale café-concert at Avril’s request. A publicity photograph by Paul Sescau of Avril may have been an inspiration, which Toulouse-Lautrec reinterpreted in an oil sketch. For the final poster, he modified Avril’s expression, tightened her chahut dance pose, and incorporated a decorative frame that shoots from the upright double bass to connect the orchestra in the foreground with the performer on stage. The motif was influenced by Edgar Degas’s painting The Orchestra at the Opera, which Toulouse-Lautrec held in high regard.

This exhibition offers the remarkable opportunity to compare an unrecorded trial proof (without text or color) with a later proof (with floorboards of the stage) and a bold, final poster (with dramatic color and subtle spatter), demonstrating the evolution of this complex print. What do you notice first about the progression? Does anything surprise you?