Saturday, November 3, 2012

Battle Buddies and Art

A few months ago I traveled to Virginia to see some good friends. Turns out many of the people who are my best friends live in the Washington D.C. area. I stayed with a very good friend of mine and spent most of my time wandering the art museums and other great places around the city on my own. Many of my friends who live in the are are military and it's always great to visit with them. One day I stopped by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial just to take a look around. I remember from trips to the wall as a child that there is only one Bowersmith listed on the wall and I have no clue who George Bowersmith is, neither does anyone else in the family. Logic would tell you I'm related to him.
What I did see was this:

It inspired me, as many things do, and made me think, once again this is not rare for me. Anyway. It's not rare for people to leave items for fallen comrades in arms along the memorial wall. I suppose it is what you do for your battle buddy. I really don't know, because I'll never have one. What I do know is even though I have not been terrified to the point of paralysis next to any of my military friends in an actual combat situation they all support me and back me up as if I had. Is everyone I know who is in the military this way? No. Am I misunderstanding something? Who knows. What I do know is that a select few of my friends are this way, like good family, and most of them are military. Would I leave a boonie cover and jungle boots on a grave for them? You bet, and nearly anything else I could do for them. After all, one of my only regrets in life is that I have never severed my country. The least I can do is serve my friends who have.
As I mentioned I did spend a lot of time at art museums. I've been to DC many times and I've done all the typical stuff. I'd pretty much seen all the touristy stuff there is to see, so I wanted to get a new perspective and see art. This has a lot to do with the fact that in the last ten years I have discovered I really like art and want to explore my own ways to make it. On this trip I specifically learned I like Impressionist art. I didn't know that. Possibly because I had not seen much of it in person. One of the things that struck me is that a gallery isn't JUST a place to look at art. It is a place to be inspired, and in the case of these huge national galleries; create it too.
While in the National Gallery of Art I saw this:
This beautiful woman was copying a painting. It really struck me. I'd been wandering though the galleries wondering why nearly every one had an easel in it, this woman showed me why. She was doing a great job too. I don't remember what she was copying, but I don't really think it matters.
I only spent a day in the National Gallery of Art, but I could have spent 100. I started at the ground floor and was examining every painting and sculpture. Every Rodin, every Monet sadly the only Van Gogh. Then I realized there was no possible way for me to examine every since piece the way I wanted to, so then I commenced to speeding though the gallery so I could see it all. The National Portrait Gallery is another story.
At first the National Portrait Gallery may seem like a pretty boring place. Yippie, thousands of paintings of mostly dead dudes. That was not the case. It made history seem so much more real to me. I was able to look at paintings of Oliver Hazard Perry made when he was in his 30s and again when he was in his 60s; truly amazing. I saw paintings of General Farragut and thought, "hey, I was just at his subway station." Things like that make the past seem so much more real. The other advantage to looking at all those portraits is inspiration. With any luck my own portrait work will improve after having seen so many successful portraits. Of course I will have to keep looking at the work of others to improve my own. It's like they say, "If you want to be a better writer, be a better reader."
Of course the National Portrait Gallery doesn't just have old paintings of mostly old dudes in it. Other art is about and there was some modern art on the top floor. Particularly an exhibit called "Video Games as Art" it was very cool and I missed it the first day so I went back to check it out.
At the end of my fist day in the portrait gallery though I did see this and decided to make a quick frame. I call it Art Lovers:
While I was perusing the top floor of the portrait gallery, and quite honestly passively following a beautiful woman trying to muster up the juevos to talk to her, I kept hearing music coming from the street. So I finished up the impressive exhibit about video games, sadly there was not anything about the Moder Warfare franchise, abandoned the girl and went to the street to check out the commotion. Turns out is was a street band, they were really good and they played until another band showed up across the street and then they left; some of them joined the other band.

Of course I took more photos and did more stuff, but I close with the tail end of my time in Virginia. On my way out I intended to visit Appomotix to see where the Civil War ended. The plan was to swing by there on my way to visit a good friend in Fredericksburg. I suppose you could call her my battle buddy, we were in something you could call combat together, it's complicated but I'm sure she'll agree to being my battle buddy. When I was paralyzed once she drug me to a defilate position so I could collect myself and get back to the fight. Anyway.
Rather than see where it all ended it was faster to see where it all started. So I went to Bull Run. Of course history tells us that the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter, but the first battle was at Bull Run. As was another battle about a year later. The ground was solemn and I did my best to be reverent. I felt in awe of the scene and was amazed at how close the opposing forces were to each other. I learned that there were dozens of different uniforms in use during the battle because the forces were newly-collected units and I can not even begin to imagine a situation so confusing, terrifying and deadly all at the same time. After spending a few hours wandering the battlefield, which I'm told is much different today because there are no crops being grown on it, I stopped at the Confederate artillery position and took this photo of the Stonewall Jackson memorial:

I want to Graceland on this trip too, since I drove, but really Graceland deserves its own post. It took me over six weeks to get this one done, so don't hold your breath for Graceland.

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