Imagining Wonder

The Renwick Gallery is the most sought after gallery to visit in Washington, D.C. Upon entering the Gallery, I already had high expectations for the WONDER exhibition. I received numerous Instagram posts and Snapchats on my media feeds. These images were mesmerizing and with no comparison to what I was actually experiencing. The distinctive pictures provided long-lasting memories as I reviewed the photos. A friend joined me on this visit and kept asking me, “What is the point of all this art?” A fair question as we develop a stronger interest in the meaning of the art. Each room included a petite plaque located along the edges of the room. The quotes described the overall message of the art. Why the quotes and then it hit me, ‘wonder’! The point of the art is to make you wonder, think, and use your imagination to tell your own story.

There is also an additional aspect that comes with this gallery experience, cameras! Signs are posted everywhere stating, “Photography encouraged” and “Post with #RenwickGallery.” Some people perceive photography is a hindrance to a museum experience, but I believe that photography is the greatest benefit to the Renwick Gallery. With today’s modern technology, social media is going to be an important factor for visitors at any tourist attraction. People want to share their visited locations with their friends and family via Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. Some museums that allow you to take photos, provide you the chance to capture the essence of the image in front of you and in return your photo does not look anything like you just saw. However, at the Renwick Gallery, the jaw-dropping and awe inspiring art that is draped and stacked across the rooms can easily be taken in one photo.

The argument behind the ethical use of photography in an exhibit is extremely controversial in the museum community. For a museum conservator, the idea of photography is a nightmare due to the harmful nature of the flash. However, for the Renwick Gallery, the only real downfall to taking a photo is that you are not the only one who has the same idea. People get in your way and sometimes photobomb your photos, but the most important aspect of the gallery is the art. The Renwick Gallery has this magical power that allows anyone to become an amazing photographer. I have never seen a photo that someone has taken at the gallery that was not impressive. Especially for the iconic and largest room in the Gallery, Janet Echelman’s “1.8. (Figure 1) Usually when I tour a museum, after walking and admiring the art in the gallery I begin to feel what experts call “museum fatigue.” Luckily, visitors have a chance to lie down on the floor and look up to see the changing colors as they reflect off what looks like a net that catches trapeze artists. I felt myself getting lost in the atmosphere of the room and continued to be mesmerized by what I was seeing. I forgot I was at a gallery with hundreds of other people.


Figure 1


In my research essay, my perception on how to look at my photos has changed. I will be examining photos and looking at them through the lens of a photographer. I found that as I took photos of the art I became a professional photographer. I thought about the light, angles, and symmetry. I wanted to capture a photo that was just as spectacular as the art I had seen in person. The images that I will be looking at for my research paper are predominantly women on the cover of Life magazine during World War II. Placing women on the front cover of a magazine during this time period makes me want to investigate further the thought and selection process of the images. I will expand my research to include the reasoning behind placing a woman on the cover – looking at both impact and inspiration.

 Overall, my trip to the Renwick Gallery exceeded my expectations. I was thoroughly entranced with the overall aesthetics of the gallery and was fascinated by the art. For any first time visitors, the Renwick Gallery offers a unique experience that is comparable to no other museum. I highly suggest to anyone and everyone to visit this modern day gallery with contemporary art.  

-Brett Borer


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