As America goes on summer vacation, the NPG staff remains busy with activities, some public, some behind the scenes. Here are a few items of note as we begin our summer schedule:
On June 15th a small group of staff from the NPG were invited to the White House to attend the administration’s celebration of Pride Month. The National Portrait Gallery’s participation in the event stemmed from the critical success of NPG’s 2010-2011 exhibition, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture."
In attendance were curator Frank Goodyear and historian David Ward, who had selected images of Bessie Smith, Jasper Johns, and Craig Rodwell to be installed in a temporary exhibition on the first floor of the White House as part of the celebration. Also present for the event were NPG commission chairman Jack Watson, interim director Wendy Wicks Reaves, deputy director of development Charlotte Gaither, and National Portrait Gallery benefactor Catherine Dawson.
Ward said of the event, “When the president entered, the crowd pushed forward toward the lectern . . . It was difficult to see the president through the crowd and amongst the thicket of upthrust cell phone cameras. The president was welcoming and he read a list of his administration’s achievements both for civil rights in general, and LGBT issues specifically. He received a warm reception by a crowd that was happy to feel that they were welcomed in the nation’s first home.”
Also on June 15, the NPG premiered "1812: A Nation Emerges," a large exhibition which features portraiture, art, and objects from the time of the United States’ second and final war with Great Britain. Curated by historian Sid Hart and co-curated by Rachael Penman, "1812" has been well received by both the public and by critics.
New York Times reviewer Ed Rothstein notes, “. . . On the occasion of the war’s bicentennial, this exhibition asserts that it had an even more profound impact than this list might suggest: It shaped a sense of American identity. The Revolutionary War established independence, but the War of 1812 forged a nation.” The complete review is available here.
"One Life: Amelia Earhart" will open at the NPG on June 29, 2012 and run through May 27, 2013. This compelling exhibition explores the life of America’s most famous female aviator. Earhart, who disappeared seventy-five years ago while flying over the Pacific, has remained a source of fascination to all because of both her legacy and the mystery surrounding her fate.
"One Life: Amelia Earhart" chronicles the pilot’s career as well as her role in the expanding women’s rights movement. The exhibition contains many photographs, as well as a bold and dramatic portrait by American artist Howard Chandler Christy. Perhaps the simplest object in the show is the piece with the most resonance—the late aviator’s pilot’s license.
Amelia Earhart's Pilot License / Leather and paper, issued May 16, 1923 / 99's Museum of Women Pilots, Oklahoma City, OK