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Monday, January 21, 2013

Montpelier Part II of II -- Graves and Slaves

The Madison Family Cemetery, complete with iron gate nameplate, brick walls and obelisk markers.  Madison's grave is seen past the gate.
James Madison's grave with Dolley's behind it.

Quite different is the slave cemetery.  No markers exist and the sparse grounds give little indication of the existence of graves.
This is the grave of an unidentified slave.  It's hard to see it here, but the only indication is a slight depression in the earth.

As much as the Founding Fathers spoke out about all men being created equal, this didn't seem to stop them from owning some of these 'equal' people; Madison was no different. 

He is said to have been against slavery, writing in a Letter to R. H. Lee, July 17, 1785,  "Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves." 

He additionally wrote in a Letter to Robert J. Evans,  "[I]f slavery, as a national evil, is to be abolished, and it be just that it be done at the national expense, the amount of the expense is not a paramount consideration."


That being said, although he was described as a 'kind' master, this certainly does not change the fact that he WAS a master and did own human beings who existed to do his bidding.

This railroad station and Post Office sits right outside Montpelier.  Of note  is the  presence of two waiting rooms, one for Whites, and a much smaller version for Coloreds.  The station dates to the Jim Crow era of 1910. 

Portions of the tracks are not used anymore and are slowly being reclaimed by nature.
Nearby Esso station.
Sign marking the station stop.

Montpelier Part I of II -- The House and Grounds

Orange County, Virginia's 'Montpelier,' was the lifelong home of 4th President James Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Montpelier is where Madison spent countless hours studying multiple government models from throughout history, using what he learned to formulate and craft the very documents we as Americans use to this day to guide and govern our great nation . Our form of government in practice may not be perfect, but it's ideals and goals are, I believe, unequaled in the world.

On the second floor, just above the main front entrance, is the Old Library.  This is the room where the US Constitution was penned.  There is a spot, just inside the door, to the left, where Monroe's desk sat.  The floor here is stained with ink from Madison's quill, over 200 years later!!!

Woods behind the back porch.
James and Dolley Madison.
The front portico looking past Mr. Madison's Temple.
Mr. Madison's Temple.
Re-created slave quarters.  Just like the other Founding Fathers, Madison kept slaves.  I'll comment more on this in part II of this blog.
Entrance to the Anne DuPont Formal Garden.

In part II of this blog, I'll detail James and Dolley's graves in the family cemetery, the stark contrast of the slave cemetery and the nearby train station, complete with it's White and Colored waiting rooms.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Quiet Scenes of the Virginia Countryside

The shots below were taken on a foggy Virginia morning.  I think they exemplify the quiet, slow passage of time and the solitude of the Virginia countryside.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Lesson In Modern Art: Featuring the Works of Ai Weiwei

Following are several examples of some of the works I saw recently at the Hirshhorn Museum, The African Art Museum, The Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. 

The Hirshhorn has become my favorite of the Smithsonian museums, mostly due to the fact that they frequently change the exhibits.

"Flowers" -- Andy Warhol.
"Red Yellow Blue V" -- Ellsworth Kelly.  A study in perspective.  When viewed from the right,  the work appears square.
When viewed from the left or straight on, the true dimensions are much different.  


The next series of pictures are all works by Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei.  Ai Weiwei is known as one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists. He is best known for contributions to the participation on the design of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Stadium and is a leading figure among Chinese artists.

"Cube Light" -- Displays Ai Weiwei's interest in re-examining Minimalist artistic strategies through questioning the perceived solidity and exactitude of the iconic cube.   

The cube was created out of glass crystals, lights and metal.
"Beijing's 2008 Olympic Stadium" and Divina Proportione, F-Size" -- Ai Weiwei. 

This Ai Weiwei piece  is a list of the over 5000 children killed during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.   A 3 hour, 41 minute voice recording titled "Remembrance" plays at this exhibit in which the names of  the children are read off in Chinese.

"Straight" is a display of re-bar recovered from the rubble of collapsed schoolhouses destroyed during the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake.

"Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn" and "Colored Vases" -- Ai Weiwei. 

As I took a picture through the holes in a series of large wooden blocks titled "Moon Chest", I realized someone was at the other end doing the same thing.  I hope his shot came out too!!!
Shadows from a display case.
Study of Perspective: Tiananmen Square.
Study of Perspective: White House.
The above pictures are just a sampling of Ai Weiwei's body of work.  I highly recommend you research him further and explore more of his work as I found him fascinating!

One last Ai Weiwei piece.

This and the next two pictures are from "Belief+Doubt", by Barbara Kruger.

"Surrogate Paintings" -- Allen McCollum.  Part of the "Dark Matters" exhibit. 
"Pentagon" -- Wayne Gonzales. Another part of the "Dark Matters" exhibit. 
Kongorikishi (also known as Ni-o) from the Kamakura period in 14th Century Japan .  These two carvings (photo below)  were created to stand guard outside Ebaradera, a temple located in the city of Sakei, near Osaka.   The Ni-o were the protectors of Buddha in his travels throughout India.  

"Restoring The Sublime"-- Leland Foster.  Foster was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease as a child and turned to art  as a form of therapy. 

Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in this exhibit at the Sackler Gallery which is touted as "An eye-opening look at the largely unknown cultural history of the Arabian Peninsula, this exhibition draws on recently discovered archaeological material never before seen in North America."  

Among the displays are a six thousand year old anthropomorphic stele (man-shaped stone slab),  a “Door of the Ka'ba”, and tombstones dating back to the 9th Century CE, from Al-Ma'la Cemetery, Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 

Anyone interested in Islamic art and history will find this a fascinating exhibit.  Of all of the museums in DC, this was the one time I felt I was really standing among some ancient history.  

Although I couldn't take photos of these, below are three pictures from the website;  
Ka'ba Door
Tombstone from Al-Ma'la Cemetery, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

I hope I was able to capture some of the many wonderful sights at these museums.....