CHESTERTOWN, MD— On Saturday, May 12, memoirist, novelist, and musician James McBride will conclude the 2012 “American Pictures” series with a riff on a dynamic 1969 photograph of soul music legend James Brown performing at the Shrine Auditorium.
A joint program of Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the “American Pictures” series offers a highly original approach to art, pairing great works with leading figures of contemporary American culture. 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.
This spring’s all-star line-up has featured four of America’s most celebrated and multi-talented writers: McBride; renowned illustrator and writer Maira Kalman (who opened the series on March 24); journalist, travel writer and historian Tony Horwitz (who spoke on April 7); and biographer Edmund Morris (who appeared on April 21). 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.
James McBride is an acclaimed author, screenwriter and musician; his memoir, The Color of Water (1996), was a New York Times bestseller and has sold millions of copies worldwide. His first novel, Miracle at St. Anna, was adapted in 2008 into a major motion picture written by McBride and directed by Spike Lee. McBride’s second novel, Song Yet Sung (2008), was selected by the Maryland Humanities Council the following year for the “One Maryland, One Book” program.
McBride has written for the Washington Post, People, the Boston Globe, Essence, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. A saxophonist who studied composition at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he tours with his own band. McBride received the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award for his musical “Bo-Bos,” co-written with playwright Ed Shockley. He is currently at work on a new book about James Brown.
The photograph that McBride has chosen to speak about, “Singer James Brown During a Performance at the Shrine” (1969) memorializes the legendary performer at the height of his career, bringing funk music to an audience eager to embrace the new sound. Photographer Julian Wasser began his career in the 1950s as a copy boy in the Washington, D.C. bureau of the Associated Press. As a Hollywood-based contract photographer for Time, People, and Life, his powerful, often startling portraits – including shots of essayist Joan Didion, comedian Lenny Bruce and avant-garde artist Marcel Duchamp – captured a seminal period in the Los Angeles arts scene.
All “American Pictures” events take place at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, located at 8th and G Streets, N.W., in Washington, D.C. McBride’s talk will begin at 2:00 p.m. in the museums’ Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium. Free tickets are available beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the G Street lobby information desk on a first-come, first-served basis. No reservations are necessary for the general public.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of Washington College may reserve tickets to American Pictures events on a first-come, first-served basis. The Starr Center will also run free buses from Chestertown to Washington for each talk. Buses will depart at 10:30 am and leave D.C. for the return trip at 7:30 pm. For details or to make a reservation, please call 410-810-7165 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.
About the Sponsors
Founded in 1782 under the personal patronage of its namesake, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland upholds a tradition of excellence and innovation in the liberal arts. The American Pictures series is a project of the college’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and its Department of Art and Art History.
The National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience. The collection captures the aspirations, character and imagination of the American people from the colonial period to today.