The Artist Sees Differently: Alec MacKaye

Alec MacKaye, preparator

Photo: Claire Norman

How did you learn about the Phillips?

This is a funny question [for a Washington, D.C. native]! Like asking how did one first hear about the White House or the cherry blossoms or Neil Armstrong. I heard about The Phillips Collection because it holds a place in United States cultural history, in D.C. history, and  in the art world. It may not be among the loudest of voices in the museum-iverse, but some things don’t need a brass band or sky writing to announce their presence.

Not to mention, being a fifth generation Washingtonian, I suppose I learned of the Phillips before I was born – my mother’s next-door neighbor and sometimes painting instructor was a man named Edgar Hewitt Nye. Two of his paintings are held in The Phillips Collection (and many more in the MacKaye Collection!), and his wife, Elizabeth Quackenbush Nye, was my parents’ English teacher at Sidwell Friends. So you see, it would be difficult to pinpoint exactly when I first heard of The Phillips Collection – it was part of me before I knew it.

You’re a musician, a writer, and an artist – do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art?

Yes – and then more broadly, through it. There are a few certain objects that float before me when I am thinking of something, usually a Alfred Pinkham Ryder or a Philip Guston or a John Marin, and more than that, working here affords me the opportunity to see more than just what we hold. The small Hiroshige show we had a few years back changed the way I dream.

What do you listen to as you’re making art?

Silence, unless I want or need something to force my hand – then its Library of Congress field recordings or punk rock or dub reggae.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I won’t tell which ones I usually say I like most,  names that most people recognize – instead I will give a couple of names that should send folks to the “search” function on our website, since they likely  haven’t seen them on our walls:  Henry Gershwin, Joseph Solman. I like these two not necessarily for their high finish or classic theme but more for their direct delivery. Continue reading

The Artist Sees Differently: Shelly Wischhusen

SHELLY WISCHHUSEN, chief preparator

Chief Preparator Shelly Wischhusen in her Office. Photo: Rolf Rykken

Were you an artist before you started to work at the Phillips, and how did you learn about the Phillips?

I have always been an artist – since I was little!  I was an art major in high school; I received my BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Georgia and my MFA in painting from The George Washington University here in D.C. I first learned of The Phillips Collection when my (University of Georgia) painting teachers did a spring-break field trip (in 1973) with some of the painting students up to Washington, D.C.  I had never been to D.C., and the first stop was the National Gallery of Art and then the Phillips.  After we saw all the beautiful works up at The Phillips Collection, I thought then and there, “I would like to work here some day.”

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