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Beat the heat, chill with great art

Baseball-, Hamilton- and Oprah-themed exhibits among regional highlights

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summer galleries, gay news, Washington Blade

‘ALL STAR GAME’ by Charles Fazzino is available for purchase at the Wentworth Gallery. (Photo courtesy Wentworth)

Looking for cool ways to beat the heat without leaving D.C.? Washington boasts nearly 80 museums located throughout the city. They’re a cheap way — most admission prices range from free to $30 — to spend a day inside learning about new topics and enjoying pieces of art and culture. The collections are constantly changing and new exhibits ensure that every trip is a one-of-a-kind experience. 

The D.C. Center’s Center Arts Gallery (2000 14th St., N.W.) presents its new installation “RoopKotha,” a compilation of pictures, memorabilia and installation that narrates the story of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, two Bangaldeshi LGBT activists. They were murdered in 2016 and the Bangladeshi government has failed to investigate the case. The exhibition has traveled around the world and will continue to exhibit until the murderers are brought to justice. The exhibition begins July 21. For more information, visit thedccenter.org/centerartsgallery.

The Wentworth Gallery (7101 Democracy Blvd., Bethesda, Md. and 1807 Galleria at Tysons II, McLean, Va.) is exhibiting Charles Fazzino’s Major League Baseball official commemorative artwork. The collection consists of original artwork, limited-edition prints on both paper and aluminum, and hand-painted baseballs and home plates. It is both on exhibition and available for purchase. Fazzino, a 3-D pop artist, uses bright colors and detail to construct lithographs and serigraphs that are finished with either acrylic or glitter paint. For more details, visit wentworthgallery.com. 

The National Gallery of Art (6th and Constitution Ave., N.W.) presents “Sense of Humor,” an exhibition of comedic art, on the ground floor of the West Building. Although humorous painting and sculpture is limited, prints and drawings comprise many of the pieces in the exhibit. It spans time and genre, with works like Renaissance caricatures, English satires and comics from the 20th century and featuring artists like Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Francisco Goya, Art Spiegelman and the Guerrilla Girls. Admission is free. The exhibition runs from July 15-Jan. 6. For more information, visit nga.gov.

National Geographic Museum (1145 17th St., N.W.) presents “Titanic: the Untold Story” through Jan. 6. The exhibit explores the link between a top-secret Cold War mission and the 1985 discovery of the sunken steamship TitanicArtifacts like a coat worn by a survivor of the shipwreck are combined with items like the 8,000-pound crew module that was used to survey the shipwreck to create an extensive exhibition. Tickets are $15; for seniors, students, and military members, $12; and for children ages 5-12, $10. Annual pass members and children under 5 are free. For more information, visit nationalgeographic.com.

The National Postal Museum (2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E.) presents “Alexander Hamilton: Soldier, Secretary, Icon” until 2019. The exhibit explores Hamilton’s life through original mail that he sent and signed. Hamilton was the first secretary of the treasury, and frequently used the Post Office Department in his role. The exhibit also features portraits of Hamilton and his contemporaries on postage and revenue stamps. The original dueling pistols used by Hamilton and Aaron Burr in the 1804 duel that resulted in Hamilton’s death will be on display until Sept. 16. This is the first time they have been displayed in D.C. Admission to the museum is free. For more information, visit postalmuseum.si.edu. 

The National Museum of African-American History and Culture (1400 Constitution Ave., N.W.) presents “Watching Oprah: the Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture.” The exhibit, open until June 2019, explores Winfrey’s story and her impact through her many roles — talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist — and how her success highlights the struggles and triumphs of African-American women throughout history. The exhibition features artifacts from Harpo Studio where “The Oprah Winfrey Show” aired for more than two decades, items from Winfrey’s personal collection, photos and video. The collection is separated into three sections, “America Shapes Oprah,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Oprah Shapes America.” The museum offers free timed passes for entry, which can be reserved at etix.com. For more information, visit nmaahc.si.edu. 

The Freer | Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave., S.W.) presents “Subodh Gupta: Terminal” through Feb. 3 in the Sackler pavilion. Subodh Gupta, an Indian artist, transforms ordinary household objects into artistic structures. “Terminal,” a readymade installation made of towers of glass containers connected by a web of thread. The spires range from one-15 feet tall and echo architectural design often seen on religious buildings. “A Perfect Harmony: American Art” is in galleries 10-11; works by Charles Lang Freer are featured in “The Power to See Beauty” in gallery nine; and “The Peacock Room Comes to America” is in Gallery 12. Admission is free. For more information, visit freersackler.si.edu. 

The Art Museum of the Americas (201 18th St., N.W.) presents “Art of the Americas: Collection of the Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States” through Oct. 28. The exhibition, which accompanies a book of the same name, takes a comprehensive look at the cultural and historical legacy of the AMA and the Organization of the American States through new research on 100 pieces in the collection. Admission is free. For more information, visit museum.oas.org.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (1250 New York Ave., N.W.) hosts “Heavy Metal,” the fifth installment in the museum’s “Women to Watch” series, which highlights contemporary women artists who work with metal. The artists explore the physical properties and artistic possibilities of metalwork through a variety of objects such as sculpture and jewelry. The pieces in the exhibit range from large installations to small trinkets made from iron, steel, bronze, silver, gold, brass, tin, aluminum, copper and pewter. The exhibition’s goal is to shift the masculine focus on metalworking and prove that contemporary women artists also make significant contributions to the field. Regular admission is $10; $8 for visitors 65 and older and students and free for NMWA members and children 18 years and younger. For more information, visit nmwa.org.

The Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) presents “1968: Civil Rights at 50,” on display through Jan. 2. The exhibit explores the events of the civil rights movement in 1968, the year Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It examines the relationship between the First Amendment and the civil rights movement. The collection contains original newspapers and magazines, buttons from 1968 presidential campaigns, a pennant from the Poor People’s Campaign protest, and a Newseum-produced film called “Justice for All” about 1968 Olympic protests. Admission is $24.95 for adults ages 19-64, $19.95 for seniors ages 65 and older, $14.95 for children ages seven-18, and free for children 6 and younger. For more information, visit newseum.org.

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Artists examine gender identity in D.C. exhibition

Event sponsored by the Blade, Dupont Underground

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'The Veiled in Red' by Waleska Del Sol is one work featured in The Gender Within: The Art of Identity exhibition at Dupont Underground.

Each weekend this June, visitors to Dupont Underground — an arts space built into an abandoned trolley station under Dupont Circle — will find walls lined with artwork ranging from embroidery to watercolors. Together, the pieces make up the Underground’s latest exhibition, “The Gender Within: The Art of Identity,” which unites more than 35 local artists in a conversation on gender identity and the dynamic ways that gendered labels are experienced.

Sianna Joslin, a web developer by day and one of the artists participating in the exhibition, is including a piece entitled “The Inherent Agony of Having A Body” — an embroidery hoop that depicts an anatomical model of a transmasculine individual bearing top surgery scars and patterned red boxers.

The piece juxtaposes “the old ideals of the human body, the male form, with top surgery scars (and) these funny pennant boxers,” they said. “It’s kind of a play on what society has traditionally considered masculine versus these new symbols of masculinity that transmasculine folks are embracing.”

Another artist, Rashad Ali Muhammad, brings to the exhibition a compilation of videos in which colorful, moving backgrounds are transplanted onto the faces of different people — pieces that originally began as NFTs.

This project, entitled “A World Within,” was inspired by the realities of existing in a period of social volatility like the pandemic, and aims to show the “worlds” that exist within each person, Ali Muhammad said.

Left to face the challenges of the pandemic and broader social inequities, “you need to take the time inwardly to think about and process everything that’s going on,” they explained. “You have to go within to understand who you are sometimes.”

Nikki Brooks, whose painting “Blaq Jesus” portrays a Black and androgynous Jesus smoking a cigarette with a nondescript expression, rooted her creative exploration in her experience with societal gender norms.

“For a long time I struggled with my gender expression. I had to live up to how people framed me … putting this femininity on me,” she said. The painting challenges “pressures from people saying that one person has to be one way, or express themselves one way,” and encourages others to “let them live how they feel on the inside.”

Brooks also noted the use of religious imagery was key to her piece. In historical depictions of Jesus, he is often assigned certain racial and gender identity markers according to societal demands, she said. “This Black Jesus in a way defies all those stigmas” tied to the identities depicted by connecting them to a revered religious icon.

The artists all noted that they are excited by the diversity of experiences the Underground’s exhibition has brought together.

“We’re going to see — from all of these different artists — interpretations of what gender means to them, and I just think that’s wonderful,” Joslin said. “I really hope that it expands on that notion of gender for a lot of people.”

Ali Muhammad found the exhibition especially meaningful for openly creating space for queer artists.

“In the history of art, a lot of artists tend to be queer … but people don’t talk about that,” they said. “Focusing specifically on queer art and queer artists (says) we are here, we are represented.”

The exhibition, cosponsored by the Washington Blade and Dupont Underground, can be accessed at 19 Dupont Circle, N.W., each Friday, Saturday and Sunday in June from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entry costs $10 per person, or $7 for students, seniors and members of the military.

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Galleries

Not-to-miss exhibits at Baltimore’s Gallery Blue Door 

Works by Brooks, Halvorsen now on display

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See Scott Brooks’s striking works at Gallery Blue Door in Baltimore. (Image courtesy of Gallery Blue Door)

Baltimore’s bustling art scene includes several current exhibits at the gay-owned Gallery Blue Door. 

Striking works by acclaimed artist Scott Brooks are on display now through July 9 in an exhibit titled “Self Contained — Pandemic Era Works.”

“The Work in ‘Self Contained’ was created over the last two years,” Brooks said in a statement. “It has been a challenging time for the world, and for myself personally. As an artist, being in lockdown gave me the gift of time.”

Brooks, a former D.C. resident who is gay, is a figurative artist who has been living and working in Baltimore since 2016. His art borders on the surreal and ranges from portraiture to complex narratives, according to the gallery.

Also currently on display is an exhibit titled “Becoming” by out artist Tracey Halvorsen, which runs until May 14. 

“This latest body of work reflects a composite of subject and abstraction through continued exploration of landscapes, still life, and narrative themes,” according to a statement from the gallery.

Gallery Blue Door should be on your list of places to visit in Charm City. It’s located in a historic row home in Mount Vernon, long the epicenter of LGBTQ life in Baltimore. 

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Have to pee? Check out new John Waters Restrooms

BMA introduces gender-neutral facilities

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Actress Elizabeth Coffey and filmmaker John Waters outside the BMA’s new gender-neutral restrooms. (Blade staff photo)

The Baltimore Museum of Art unveiled its latest addition on Wednesday: the John Waters Restrooms, named for the iconic filmmaker who is a trustee of the museum. 

There were plenty of snickers and jokes about who would be the No. 1 and No. 2 patrons of the new facilities, but beneath the potty humor was an important message about access to the most fundamental spaces in society.

Joining Waters at a BMA event Wednesday to officially dedicate the gender-neutral restrooms was Elizabeth Coffey, a transgender actress and longtime friend and collaborator of Waters’. Coffey noted the importance of access to public spaces to the trans community. Preceding her at the lectern was Christopher Bedford, the Dorothy Wagner Wallis director of the BMA, who noted that adding the gender-neutral restrooms was the right thing to do.

After brief remarks, Coffey and Waters led a group of museum supporters and reporters downstairs to see the new space and Coffey cheekily took the inaugural trip into one of four private stalls. The stalls and adjoining communal washroom were designed by Quinn Evans Architects and feature white tile with bright red tile in the stalls. The idea for naming the restrooms came from Waters when he bequeathed his fine art collection to the BMA, according to a museum statement. 

The John Waters Restrooms will open to the public on Sunday, Dec. 12, in conjunction with the adjacent Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs and Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies. Waters is about to embark on a national tour of spoken-word performances. 

John Waters Restrooms, gay news, Washington Blade
John Waters speaks to a crowd at Wednesday’s dedication event. (Blade staff photo)
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