Visiting my grandmother’s art at the Smithsonian

Today my grandmother (Eleanor Dickinson)’s art and papers were featured in a new exhibit at the Archives of American Art. The exhibit was giving life and names to iconic models, from the source of a popular series of pin-up girls to animal-muses, it covered a range.

Included were the works and funny memos from my awesome grandmother.


A friend from work kindly accompanied me and listened to stories about the things and people mentioned and shown in the exhibit. She was a particular fan of the photo of Frida Kahlo.


She asked if it was weird for me to see my grandmother’s art in the Smithsonian. I said it wasn’t: I grew up knowing my grandmother was an important artist, but I also carry within myself the basic arrogance of family pride. To me, it seems obvious that other people would find my grandmothers and grandfathers and parents and siblings as interesting as I find them. Of course other people would value them, include them in important pieces of work.

It was lovely to see the curator had picked up on the importance of diverse bodies in my grandmother’s art. She talks about how thin, young bodies are much more boring than older, wrinklier, scarred or disabled bodies. Sometimes the translation between person and history can mask those kinds of important threads, but the curator for this exhibit caught it and wove it into the piece as a whole.

In addition, not playing in the space, but available via the website and Archives of American Art’s YouTube channel, an interview with certain mothers of mine:

Artists and Their Models is showing from today to August 27, 2014 in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Inspirational Quote:

“The chance of immortality is kind of alluring also.”–certain mothers of mine.

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