Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Palmisano

In this series, Education Specialist Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Anna Palmisano, Art Information and Library Volunteer

Anna Palmisano

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

AP: I started volunteering in 2013 during the Van Gogh Repetitions exhibit.

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?

AP: I want to help visitors have the best possible experience at The Phillips Collection. I especially enjoy helping visitors find a favorite painting or works by a favorite artist. I love when visitors stop to see me after touring the museum to tell me about their experience.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?

AP: I lead Marylanders for Patient Rights—a non-profit group dedicated to promoting legislation to protect the rights of hospital patients, who are among our most vulnerable consumers. I work with a wide range of advocacy groups and state legislators to promote patient rights.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

AP: I have so many favorite paintings! My favorite artists are Paul Klee, for his whimsical paintings that evoke childhood, and Pierre Bonnard for his use of colors in creating an ethereal and dreamlike atmosphere.

If you had one word to describe the Phillips, what would it be?

AP: Inspiring

Share a fun fact about you!

AP: I am a scientist by training—a microbial ecologist. My doctoral research took me to the continent of Antarctica on seven expeditions to study how microorganisms adapt to extreme environments.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

AP: I have been coming to the Phillips since I was six years old. I was fortunate that my parents and my aunt, the sculptor Marie Lesher, introduced me to the Phillips, and it remains my favorite museum. When I retired, The Phillips Collection was an obvious choice for volunteering.  I enjoy the art and wonderful people who work here!

Staff Show 2016: Kristen Calcaterra

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.

Kristen Calcaterra, "Steve Zissou"

Kristen Calcaterra, “Portrait of Steven”


Kristen Calcaterra

Kristen Calcaterra, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Kristen Calcaterra, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

After receiving her BFA from RISD in 2011, Kristen Calcaterra moved back to Northern Virginia where she currently resides.  She is very influenced by local historic homes.  Her personal body of work centers on the presence of violence, disease, and unfortunate living conditions in an otherwise beautifully and meticulously crafted home.  In addition to working at The Phillips Collection, Calcaterra teachesg Portfolio Preparation to high school students anticipating a career in the pursuit of fine art.

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 am an Admissions Supervisor at The Phillips Collection.  I really like to think that I help to represent the collection to the public.  I’m the first person that most visitors see when they walk in, and it’s important to me that their first impression of our museum is a pleasant one.  I think it sets the mood for their entire experience.

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

I absolutely love Pierre Bonnard.  His sense of color is phenomenal and I just love the way that so much of his work with color reminds me of Claude Monet‘s work in the 1890s.  I feel that Bonnard is sometimes overlooked, but with our wonderful collection it’s truly hard to miss him!

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

The Music Room is just stunning.  A lot of my personal work has to do with architecture of older buildings, so really I love all of the spaces in the original house.  They’re so intimate; it’s like being welcomed into someone’s home with all this gorgeous artwork everywhere.

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

I’ve just gotten back into working with the figure.  Since graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011 with a BFA in Painting, all of my work has been non-figurative.  I typically work with the concept of the ornamented interior and the deconstruction of it’s, let’s say, perfection.  I’m excited to soon reincorporate the figure into my personal body of work.  This piece really helped me regain my footing when it comes to representing people, and I hope it will strengthen my upcoming works.

Find more work by Calcaterra on her website.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show will be on view August 16 through September 19, 2016. The show features artwork from the Phillips Collection staff.

Spotlight on The Open Window

Pierre Bonnard, The Open Window, 1921. Oil on canvas, 46 1/2 x 37 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930

Pierre Bonnard, The Open Window, 1921. Oil on canvas, 46 1/2 x 37 3/4 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1930

A couple of days ago,  I attended a spotlight talk focused on one of my favorite paintings in the Collection: Pierre Bonnard’s The Open Window (1921). We began with a quiet reflection on the painting, after which Phillips Librarian Karen Schneider guided our group to an understanding of the subject matter, palette, and structural lines of the work.

Examining the painting, the viewer is drawn first to the scene out the window–the serenity of the lush green trees and fading blue sky of the world outside. Then we observe the hard lines of the window frame and the bright, warm colors of the interior setting. Last, we notice a woman sitting, perhaps sleeping, in the bottom right hand corner, blurred and barely discernible. I almost didn’t notice her at all. This was in fact the artist’s intent, I learned. With contrasting hues and structural lines, Bonnard is recreating the experience of going out into the bright light and then coming back inside. We are caught in the moment when vision is temporarily impaired, and we only catch the outline of a form out of the corner of our eye. The outside is still beckoning.

Did you know that Pierre Bonnard actually visited The Phillips Collection in 1926? After complementing Marjorie Phillips on her paintings, he asked to borrow a brush so he could touch up one of his works in the Collection. Fortunately, she said she didn’t have one with her and convinced him not to alter the work!

Jane Clifford, Marketing Intern