I’m not big on Museums. The city of Washington is though, and there is definitely no disincentive to visit museums that are both world class in caliber and gratis in price. After wandering from the Greyhound station, past Capitol Hill, through a frothing-at-the-loudspeaker, we-want-free-single-payer-health-care protest, I entered the museum of Native American History. I have to admit, I stumbled upon this museum quite arbitrarily. Admisdt the ‘monumentus’ expanse of the National Mall in front of Capital Hill, I had been unable to satisfy a desperate, migraine-inducing caffeine craving. Just before I surrendered to genuflexion and hopeless bellowing at the Gods – “A coffee! My continent for a coffee!” – I realized that the museums probably housed grossly price-inflated cafes.
So I found myself in the inverted concavity of modernist architecture that houses the surviving remnants of Native American culture. Given that much of it was destroyed, perhaps the Holocaust museum should have been combined with it. But then again, genocide wasn’t a word until Lemkin invented it at Nuremberg.
After a life-altering coffee I decided to wander up to the Fritz Scholder exhibit (http://www.nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/scholder) while I waited for a friend to finish work. I was blown away. The paints were for the most part vibrant, tormented abstractions of human beings. His was the kind of abstraction that seemed to be more real, even hauntingly so, than realistic works. I suppose that’s the point of abstraction. I spent hours wandering between little brass, vampiric statues and enormous canvases with names like “Indian in Car” or “Dead Indian with Snowy Owl” or “Human Nature No.1”, with images of distorted, limbless, absurdly colored but not altogether unhappy human beings.
I was intrigued by this painter, famed for his timely reinvention of tawdry Indian art. Both man and work came across to me in the poetry of paradoxical couplets. Crazed humility. Nonchalant relevance. Peaceful violence.
I especially liked his description of the artistic process, an obsessiveness I would love to employ with my blogging (haha)….”I take each work to the brink of disaster and then pull it back until it defies me to go any further, and then I know: it’s done.”
It defies me to go any further. Check out his work.