Wonder at The Renwick Gallery, DC

Spur of the moment yesterday, I proclaimed that we were soon heading downtown for a family outing. It was warm, beautiful, and I've been dying to see the Wonder exhibit at The Renwick, part of the Smithsonian dedicated to American arts and crafts.

The Gallery has recently reopened after a multiyear renovation, and as part of the debut celebration asked nine contemporary American artists to contribute to Wonder, an immersive exhibit in which unlikely or unusual materials are used to create larger-than-life surprises and experiences. Each artist was given an entire gallery, and while you can't touch anything, you are encouraged to interact -laying on the floor and looking up, for example- and photograph.

It was a spectacular show! Truly magnificent and fascinating. Here's a sampling...

Weavings by Gabriel Dawe:

Can you imagine handling that much string, keeping it organized and creating such a stunning rainbow with it?

Hemlock tree rendered in reclaimed cedar by John Grade:

 "To commemorate the Renwick’s reopening, Grade selected a hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle that is approximately 150 years old–the same age as this building. His team created a full plaster cast of the tree (without harming it), then used the cast as a mold to build a new tree out of a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar. Hundreds of volunteers assisted Grade, hand carving each piece to match the contours of the original tree. After the exhibition closes,Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth." -The Renwick

"To commemorate the Renwick’s reopening, Grade selected a hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle that is approximately 150 years old–the same age as this building. His team created a full plaster cast of the tree (without harming it), then used the cast as a mold to build a new tree out of a half-million segments of reclaimed cedar. Hundreds of volunteers assisted Grade, hand carving each piece to match the contours of the original tree. After the exhibition closes,Middle Fork (Cascades) will be carried back to the hemlock’s location and left on the forest floor, where it will gradually return to the earth." -The Renwick

Spellbinding woven sculpture by Janet Echelman: "Echelman’s woven sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, March 11, 2011, by 1.8 millionths of a second, lending this work its title. Waves taller than the 100-foot length of this gallery ravaged the east coast of Japan, reminding us that what is wondrous can equally be dangerous." -The Renwick

Afterwards, with the White House just a stone's throw away, we wandered over to it, looked around and then, on our way back to the car, came upon the White House Historical Association's open house: the White House gingerbread house was on display, as well as a number of historical relics and photographs (I love that culinary-themed mantle), and there was a craft area and pastry demonstration too.

All in all, such a nice way to explore our city. And every bit of it was free. Bravo and thank you!