Thursday, March 15, 2012

College Offers Free Transportation to the Smithsonian for "American Pictures" Series

Illustrator Maira Kalman Kicks Off Series Saturday
Afternoon, March 24, with a Diane Arbus Photograph
CHESTERTOWN, MD— Interested in a Saturday of art, history, and cultural exploration in Washington, D.C.? Thanks to a special program offered by Washington College, area residents can join faculty and students for free, daylong excursions to the nation’s capital to attend the acclaimed “American Pictures” series at the Smithsonian. The dates of this year’s events are March 24, April 7, April 21, and May 12. Tickets, including bus transportation from Chestertown to Washington, are free and available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.
The “American Pictures” series is a joint program of Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Each talk features an eminent writer, artist, critic or historian who chooses a single favorite image to explore, revealing how artworks reflect American identity and inspire creativity in many different fields. The series director is historian Adam Goodheart of Washington College. Events take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. All talks will begin at 2:00 p.m. (a change in time from previous years).
Buses will leave Chestertown at 11:00 a.m., and depart DC for the return trip at 7:30 p.m. Faculty and staff from the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the Department of Art and Art History are arranging special gallery tours for Washington College’s guests following each talk. For more information, or to make a reservation, please contact Lois Kitz at the Starr Center by calling 410-810-7165 or emailing
The series opens Saturday, March 24, with illustrator and writer Maira Kalman, who will explore a haunting photo by Diane Arbus. Kalman has written and illustrated more than a dozen books for children, including Looking at Lincoln (2012), Ooh-la-la-Max in Love (2001), What Pete Ate (2001), and 13 WORDS (2010), a collaboration with Lemony Snicket. Kalman’s books for adults include And the Pursuit of Happiness (2010), and an illustrated version of Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style (2005).
She is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker, and is well known for her collaboration with Rick Meyerowitz on the popular 2001 “New Yorkistan” cover. Beloved for her whimsical-neurotic take on modern life, Kalman also created a year-long visual column on American history and democracy for the New York Times. In 2010, the Institute of Contemporary Art organized a retrospective of her work, Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World).
Diane Arbus, whose photograph Untitled (8) will be the focus of Kalman’s talk, was one of the most provocative and distinctive American visual artists of the 20th century. Created between the 1950s and her death in 1971, her haunting, densely detailed black-and-white portraits – often of men and women considered deviant or “freakish” by society at large – continue to challenge and fascinate viewers. Norman Mailer famously said of her, “Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like putting a live grenade in the hands of a child.”
Untitled (8), taken not long before Arbus’s suicide at age 48, is one of her most striking images. It depicts five men and women, residents of a home for the mentally impaired, dressed in Halloween costumes.
In addition to Kalman, this spring’s all-star line-up features journalist, travel writer and historian Tony Horwitz, biographer Edmund Morris, and memoirist, novelist, and musician James McBride. The series director is historian Adam Goodheart, Hodson Trust-Griswold Director of Washington College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.
Saturday, March 24: Maira Kalman on Diane Arbus’s Untitled (8) (1970-71)
Saturday, April 7: Tony Horwitz on Ole Peter Hansen Balling’s John Brown (1872)
Saturday, April 21: Edmund Morris on Ronald Reagan at Bergen-Belsen (NBC television sequence, 1985)
Saturday, May 12: James McBride on Julian Wasser’s Singer James Brown during a Performance at the Shrine (1969)
For a more complete description of the four programs, click here.