Wonder in Washington

The newly renovated Renwick Gallery reopens with massive, immersive installations. /

Wonder. It first came to mind as our plane flew over the East Coast’s record snowfall and landed at Washington Reagan airport.

Slip-sliding into a waiting taxi, my wife and I were driven past ranges of shoulder-high snow near manmade wonders like the Jefferson and Washington memorials, then past the White House to our hotel just off of historic Lafayette Square.

Once settled in, and with a couple of hours to kill before our evening’s event, Judy and I thought we’d drink a bit more deeply of the capital’s architecture. Our stroll immediately past President Obama’s residence brought us to a recently polished facet of the Smithsonian building-expanse: the Renwick Gallery.

America’s first building to be designed specifically as an art museum, the 160-year-old Renwick is an easily forgotten artistic gem, positioned as it is along a line of other attention-getting historic row houses.

But it was the banner emboldened with a single word, “WONDER,” draped across the recently refurbished facade that forced our attention. And our attendance.

Once inside, we were visually accosted by nine galleries full of massive, unexpected treasures. Unexpected because of the media used by the nine artists whose individual vision filled each room: index cards, toothpicks, scotch-tape, ground-up tires, wire, insects—lots of insects! Together, the installations turned the building itself into one big work of art.

The largest exhibits naturally demanded the most time to experience and drew the most awe from attendees.

Inspired by a map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration colorfully depicting the energy released during the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, Janet Echelman translated ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 41 / February 4, 2016
  1. Editor’s Note

    Issue 41: Crow funerals, the strangeness of light, wonder at the Renwick, and asking God rightly. /

  2. Funeral for a Feathered Friend

    Researchers are discovering why crows gather when one of them dies. Are they mourning or just learning? /

  3. How Light Changed the Rules of Opposites

    North couldn’t be south. An odd number couldn’t be even. And a particle couldn’t be a wave. Then we saw the light. /

  4. You’re Praying Wrong

    Ask, and it will be given you, Jesus promised. Crave, and you’ll kill for it, James warned. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 41: Links to amazing stuff.

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