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“America’s Presidents” exhibit reopens at National Portrait Gallery

NPG George Washington PortraitA George Washington portrait is among the many works of art on display in the "America's Presidents" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO  The “America’s Presidents” exhibition at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is more than about portraits.

There’s historical context. The Gallery has grouped the portraits into six historical chapters, each with its own explanatory text. Five of these revolve around a particular era, each with one U.S. President anchoring it – George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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Plath and Dietrich take a new turn in the limelight

Marlene DietrichMarlene Dietrich. COURTESY PHOTO  The two women couldn’t have been more different.

Marlene Dietrich was an internationally known movie star who radiated sexual magnetism. She was also unapologetically androgynous and bisexual, at a time neither was openly accepted. A married woman whose list of lovers seemed endless, Dietrich was defeated only by aging, which made a dent in her prodigious selfconfidence.

Sylvia Plath was a shy but influential poet and novelist. While she captured the public imagination of other artists and lovers of her art forms and won a Pulitzer Prize, she never became the household name Dietrich was. Plath is also known for her turbulent relationship with husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes. After several bouts of depression and suicide attempts (possibly due to bipolar disorder), Plath took her own life at the age of 30.

Dietrich and Plath are now posthumously “sharing the same space,” in exhibitions dedicated to them at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

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Center Stage: Bill Viola’s art slows time to create mindful contemplation

Bill Violas The Fall into ParadisePerformers John Hay and Sarah Steben take part in Bill Viola's video art piece "The Fall into Paradise," part of his exhibit "The Moving Portrait" now featured at the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON D.C. — Moving pictures meet portraiture. Video, a popular media form used for almost any purpose, is rarely utilized for slow, perceptual contemplation often achieved in paintings or music.

Bill Viola’s work “The Moving Portrait” does exactly that. His work is more akin to portraiture rather than narrative stories often seen in video. His work focuses on facial language and slow-motion to allow a calmer, meditative attention to his footage.

These videos focus on the physical actions of his subjects rather than the promise of a narrative climax or conclusion to maintain interest. Examples include “The Raft”, a high-definition video projection of nineteen people suddenly hit by a high-pressure stream of water.

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Center Stage: National Portrait Gallery is blowing in the wind with Bob Dylan

Bob DylanPhoto of Nobel Prize-winning artist Bob Dylan that was featured in The National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO

WASHINGTON – The National Portrait Gallery recently wrapped up a display in its “Celebrate” exhibit of musician Bob Dylan, recognizing the famous songwriter being awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The “Celebrate” exhibit features photos of many different celebrities.

“One of the things we’re really pleased with is that we’re recognizing people who have achieved recent accomplishments as well as people who have sadly recently passed away,” said Senior Historian David Ward.

The Smithsonian acquired the photo of Dylan in 1996. The description noted “the Nobel Prize Committee broke precedent” by awarding the songwriter a literature prize.

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