Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Pat Norton

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement 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.

Mary Pat Norton, Art Information Volunteer and Public Program Volunteer

Mary Pat Norton

What year did you start volunteering for The Phillips Collection?I’ve been volunteering since February 2018.

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

As a volunteer, I’ve had the opportunity to assist a variety of departments and learn about all of the artists within the exhibits. Before working here, I never seriously studied works by Paul Klee or the aboriginal Australian women artists, so I’ve enjoyed broadening my perspective. In doing so, I’ve been able to discuss these works with our visitors, gaining an understanding of their viewpoints as well. Overall, the best part about my role is that I have the privilege of helping visitors cultivate meaningful learning experiences, and they help me to do the same.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at the Phillips?

I am an art history MA student at George Washington University and an editorial assistant to a design historian. When I am not studying, I can be found eating my way through D.C. and wandering through the city’s art museums.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

I love the Laib Wax Room, and I really appreciate that there is a slab of wax on the outside of this space for visitors to touch. The eucalyptus poles in the Marking the Infinite exhibit are also fascinating.

If you had to choose one word to describe The Phillips Collection, what would it be?


Share a fun fact about you!

I excel at pogo sticking, and I grew up in South Florida.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I’ve really grown to love the Phillips and I look forward to learning more about this fabulous collection. Volunteering here has been a fun experience, and I appreciate everyone who has helped me learn more about the museum industry.

ArtGrams: Marking the Infinite

As Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia reaches its final weekend, we’d like to share some great shots that our visitors posted on Instagram. Come see the exhibition (and snap some photos!) before it closes on September 9!

Photo by @jeaninnemariee


Photo by @maegan.ramirez


Photo by @pattybarden


Photo by @quweixun


Photo by @nikfish


Photo by @infocusandie




Photo by @seenandspoken


Photo by @waynegafford


Photo by @btransatlantic


Photo by @melhess


Photo by @saiyyamarts


Photo by @callheraminaa


Larrakitj Poles

Larrakitj Poles in Marking the Infinite. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Larrakitj Poles in Marking the Infinite. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Larrakitj were once created by the Yolngu (indigenous peoples from the northeastern Arnhem Land region) to house the bones of their dead. For these traditional burial poles, only the most perfectly symmetrical hollow trunk eucalyptus trees were used. Once stripped of bark, the surface would be decorated with detailed paintings intended to guide the deceased to their spiritual home. Larrakitj still play an important role in Yolngu mortuary rites and memorial practices, but no longer function as receptacles for human remains. In the 1980s, artists began making Larrakitj for the art market, departing from the strict conventions of ceremonial design. They became less concerned with symmetry and, in the 2000s, began exploring the surface features of the trunk, utilizing imperfections as integral parts of its expressive form.

Nonggirrnga Marawili’s works (as seen in top image) often reference the four key elements of Madarrpa Law: lightning, fire, water, and rock. Cascading diamonds convey water and fire; jagged lines are reminiscent of lightning; dark shapes indicate rocks; and white dots suggest sea spray or the barnacles adorning rocks. Each of these elements is connected to specific ancestral events in Madarrpa country. While Marawili alludes to the visual conventions of ceremonial painting, she ultimately represents her own interpretations. In doing so, the artist demonstrates the deep connection that Yolngu ancestral forces have to their lands as well as to their identity. The Yolngu word “Yurr’yun” refers to the water marks produced by a powerful wave crushing against a rock, from splashes to droplets to mist.

This work is on view in Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia through September 9, 2018.