This weekend it was my great good fortune (and such an honor!) to have the opportunity to visit the White House. My close friend Kate’s brother Michael, also a friend of mine, works for Obama and was able to arrange for my family and I to have a tour of both the East Wings and West Wings of this great American house. Sheepishly I admit that this was my second time visiting both wings, but it was such a thrill to get to share it with my brother, mother, and father as we are all great lovers of learning, history, art and adventure. Photography was not allowed but I would like to share some of my favorite things with you. I will start with this beautiful inscription on the mantel in the State Room of the East Wing:
“I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this House, and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof!”
Restored during the Kennedy restoration, this 1901 mantel was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt, with an inscription from a letter that John Adams wrote to his wife after he moved in as the first resident of the house following its construction in 1800. Lincoln’s portrait sits above the mantel. The inscription is a beautiful (if optimistic) wish for the White House!
Some favorite pieces from the East Wing:
Two incredible sculptures that sit in the Center Hall of the Ground Floor Residence. One is “Coming Through the Rye” by Frederic Sackrider Remington, modeled in 1902 and cast in 1918. It must have appealed to my inner cowgirl.
The other is “Meat for Wild Men” by Charles Marion Russell, modeled c.1920 and cast 1956. Gruesome but lovely none-the-less!
Also in the Center Hall of the Ground Floor Residence is this cabinet displaying Presidential china services spanning our Nation’s history. It was quite interesting. I spent a while inspecting the collection and narrowing down my favorites. The finalists were the Clinton service, the pieces showcased from Lincoln’s presidency, and the curious china pattern from the Rutherford B. Hayes administration. The full collection is housed in the China Room which is also on the Ground Floor of the Residence and features this striking portrait of Grace Coolidge and her dog. If I were to be First Lady, I should most definitely like to have a portrait with my dog!
The East Wing also houses many of the official portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies. Here are the ones that I was drawn to:
The only portrait that I didn’t see, was the portrait of this great American woman:
This ornate piano, by Steinway and Son, 1938, in the Entrance Hall
I will leave it at that for the East Wing, although there are so many rooms and things to talk about. I will fill you in on my trip to the West Wing in my next post, so stay tuned!
For more information and a detailed tour of the East Wing, check out this historic and fascinating video:
Jacqueline Kennedy was responsible for the restoration of the White House during the Kennedy administration. She said ”Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there. It would be sacrilege merely to redecorate it—a word I hate. It must be restored, and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship.” She believed that the White House should be a place of pilgrimage for Americans, where one would be able to sense and touch the people who had been there. The quality and historical significance of the many of the artworks and objects in the White House today are in large part due to the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy.
I would like to note that the White House remains the largest and most prominent public building housing a head of state still open to the public in the world. Although security has tightened greatly in the last 15 years, the rooms in the East Wing remain “by the people and for the people.” Visits can be arranged through one’s local Congressman.
When I was studying photography, my interest was in creating photographs that were painterly. Painting has a language all its own which is not easily referenced strictly through the unflinchingly straightforward lense of a camera. So clearly I’m obsessed, in love and green with envy over this guy’s work:
Photographer Nick Knight developed this body of work over a 10 year period by taking large scale photographs, inspired by 16th century still life paintings, and exposing the prints to heat and water during the printing process. The results leave me both in love and in envy.
I am spending this quiet week between Christmas and the New Year in Connecticut, relaxing after a hectic summer and fall, topped off by a very busy 3 weeks in Chicago. We are supposed to have another snow storm tonight so I’m happy to get cozy and zen out by the fire with books and movies. Here are some beautiful quilts I’ve found in a book about the quilts of Gee’s Bend which have been made over four generations of women in Alabama. They are so curious, bold, and freewheeling while at the same time being minimal, graphic and modern. Abstract really. I love them!
Here is a segment from NPR’s ”Talk of the Nation” back in 2003 on Gee’s Bend. If you care to listen, enjoy!
When a hurricane like Sandy hits, there is only one thing to do– take shelter! While the power’s still on, I suggest cranking up the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, making yourself a cocktail (if you’re over 21, of course!), and building a fort in the living room to get cozy in and ride out the storm. Here are some favorite homemade fort inspirations!