The Intersection of Art and Music: An Immersive Experience in Linling Lu’s Soundwaves

Marketing and Communications Detail Amity Chan shares her experience in Linling Lu‘s Soundwaves, on view through April 30.

Linling Lu’s Soundwaves, the first Intersections project of 2023, is a response to Philip Glass’s Etude no. 16 played on piano by Timo Andres during a Phillips Music program in 2015. Trained as a pianist from a young age, Lu uses her knowledge of classical piano and music theory to explore the intersection of art and music in this exhibition. Soundwaves features Lu’s collection of 12 circular paintings, each representing a note played by Andres on the piano. Linking art and music together, Lu offers the ultimate meditative experience.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are greeted by a life-sized circular painting that transports them to the world of music. Looking to the left, six additional life-sized circular paintings are displayed on the wall as parts of the seven notes played by the pianist’s left hand. While on the right wall, five paintings of varied sizes are installed as a hand shape to represent the five notes played by the right hand. Despite the absence of a piano, the entire gallery space feels like a massive piano. As viewers, we are standing inside the piano enveloped by Andres’s performance.

As Lu mentioned in an interview, “If you read a book a hundred times, you can read something behind the texts. I think for painting, it has the same process.” In Soundwaves, Lu’s paintings mirror the repetitive phrases in Glass’s Etude no. 16 with the use of recurring circular patterns. The gradient circles on the twelve canvases resemble the pressure from the fingertips, slowly wrapping the viewers in the musician’s hands as they tap on piano keys. This leads to a thought-provoking question: who is the real musician here? Is it Lu, Timo Andres, or Phillips Glass?

Lu’s art practice centers around the concept of repetition, and this exhibition is no exception. The experience of Soundwaves is designed to be savored over time. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind immersive exhibition, and be sure to bring your earphones so you can listen to Glass’s music while you savor!

Identity in Abstraction

In honor of Black History Month, Digital Archivist Amanda Acosta shares conflicting perspectives on Black American artists working in abstraction.

Abstract Expressionism arose at a point in American history when the cultural scene was ripe with socio-political movements. Instead of visualizing the American climate as it was in the 1950s and 60s, Abstract Expressionists turned inward for inspiration. Artists broke from representational forms in favor of expressive and experimental color application. The movement is primarily recognized through the achievements of white, male painters in New York City.

However, Black and women artists like Howardena Pindell, Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, and Alma Thomas radically chose abstraction when identity movements called for Social Realism. It has been assumed that Black artists working in abstraction did so “as a personal and professional step toward artistic integration: a step that symbolized their willingness to subordinate Blackness . . . and to place themselves and their work in a larger, wider, and ultimately, whiter art world” (Powell, p. 102). This assumption negates the self-exploratory nature of the period and reinforces the notion that “other” artists must suppress their identity in order to produce great art. Ultimately these abstract artists did just the opposite, embedding personal motifs, social commentary, and painterly practice into their works.

“Modern Painters at the Corcoran: Sam Gilliam” brochure, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1983. The Phillips Collection Library and Archives, Vertical Files.

Sam Gilliam and Alma Thomas are among the hundreds of artists for which The Phillips Collection’s library and archives maintains extensive vertical files, with copies of correspondence, exhibition brochures, photographs, and more.

“Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings” members’ reception invitation, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, 1998. The Phillips Collection Library and Archives, Vertical Files.

“Paintings by Sam Gilliam” pamphlet, The Phillips Collection, 1967. The Phillips Collection Library and Archives, Exhibition History Files.

Explore the library catalogue and digitized archival materials online. Make an appointment to access our collections by contacting

Powell, Richard J. Black Art: A Cultural History. Second ed., Thames & Hudson, 2002

Experience Art Through Empathy: Engagement Stations in the Giuseppe De Nittis Exhibition

Marketing and Communications Detail Amity Chan shares her experience at the engagement stations in An Italian Impressionist in Paris: Giuseppe De Nittis (on view through February 12).

In An Italian Impressionist in Paris: Giuseppe De Nittis, we see how De Nittis developed fruitful friendships with important impressionist painters like Edgar Degas and Edouard Manet through the uniqueness of his paintings and techniques. There is no doubt that art has the power to help us connect more deeply with ourselves and with others.

To replicate this experience, the Phillips team put together an engagement space in the exhibition for our visitors to connect deeper to De Nittis’s world of art as well as with other visitors. Through three interactive activities, we encourage visitors to look at, talk about, and write about the works of art in the exhibition. On the display walls, visitors could also learn from the perspectives of other people and reflect on how experiences often affect one’s worldview.

Station 1: Draw Together

Station 1: Draw Together

This activity requires two players. One as the describer and one as the drawer. The describer picks one of De Nittis’s paintings to describe to the drawer. Then, the drawer makes a drawing based on the visual description. After that, the two players look at the drawing and reflect on the activity together.

Station 2: Share Your Haiku

Station 2: Share Your Haiku

Write a haiku from the perspective of a person or object in an artwork of your choice.

Station 3: Personal Choice

Station 3: Personal Choice

Be a Phillips curator! Pick and create a collection from the artworks in the exhibition.

I tried out all three of the engagement stations. I found “Draw Together” the most interesting because it gave me the opportunity to work with another person and hear their views of art directly. I played as a drawer with my fellow Museum Assistant Elizabeth Cumbo. As someone who works in the museum and spends more time in the exhibition than any visitors, I thought it would be somewhat easier for me. However, it felt very foreign to visualize a painting based on my partner’s description and not be able to see the image that I was drawing. While making the drawing, I would also need to consider the fashion elements in 1870s Paris. For example, when Elizabeth described to me that both figures are wearing hats, I immediately thought of sun hats. However, in De Nittis’s painting, the male figure is wearing a top hat and the female figure is wearing a white hat with flowers. This made me realize that I was not only looking through the other player’s lens but also the artist’s lens. The final drawing is an end product of three worlds merged together: my own experience and imagination, Elizabeth’s description, and De Nittis’s view of Paris.

My drawing vs De Nittis’s painting

After completing each activity, visitors are encouraged to share the drawings and poems on the display shelves. It was fascinating to see other visitors’ works, especially the Haiku poems in which we are asked to write from the perspective of a person or object in the paintings.

Here are some interesting finds on the display shelves:

Visitor haiku

Visitor drawing

Visitor drawing

Visitor drawing

An Italian Impressionist in Paris: Giuseppe De Nittis is now on view through February 12. I highly encourage you to come and experience De Nittis’s 1870s Paris at The Phillips Collection.