Self Portrait of artist Laurie Anderson from exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum. Lettering reads "Laurie Anderson 'The Weather': The Lois Level visits the Hirshorn Museum Washington D.C."

On wandering into Laurie Anderson at the Hirshhorn Museum

The exhibit of Laurie Anderson’s work at the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art in D.C. has taken my conception of “museum” to a whole new level.

It’s been a while since I have been in a modern art museum, and my recent visit to the Hirshhorn Museum reminded me that I shouldn’t have stayed away so long.

You probably forgot that you knew that in Washington, D.C. there is a wonderful complex of museums called “The Smithsonian” that are free to all comers, everyday. When I was younger, I enjoyed the famous museums that are full of things, but as I get older, I’m starting to appreciate the art museums more and more.

Laurie Anderson’s Modern Art and 80’s Music Videos

A couple of days ago, I made my way to the Hirshhorn Museum, which is for modern art. Y’all, it’s amazing what people are doing with art. I was most stunned by the Laurie Anderson exhibit. As I described it to my daughter later: It was like stepping into A-ha’s “Take On Me” video.

She’s 28, but she knew exactly what I meant. First, I raised her right. Second, it’s an awesome video.

But what my dumb little teenager-in-the-80’s self didn’t know is that Laurie Anderson was making videos like this while I was watching MTV. And by the 80’s, she had been doing similar work for a couple of decades. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “love in” seems ridiculous to me now (although I was never a fan of either one of them, especially Ono).

You could walk around this room for hours just taking everything in. I cropped out the other people who were in the room, but they felt like part of the experience.

You have the option of looking at the drawings and figures, reading the graffiti, listening to the parrot (he is animated and he talks), or just standing there in shock.

I’m not going to tell you what’s happening here. I will point out that yes, it is the ceiling that you see above the man’s head.

A lot of Anderson’s art incorporates written words, but this installation is about the spoken word.
And then there are these:
Yes, they are teeny tiny.

The Hirshhorn has a fantastic Laurie Anderson page with clips…including some that aired on MTV (when MTV was interesting)…don’t miss it! She also has a book about her career: My Life so Far.

More about the Hirshhorn

I like all kinds of museums, but modern art museums are my favorite because you get a lot more freedom. Honestly, at the Hirshorn I had the feeling I was at a really awesome theme park! If nothing else, the cool dark rooms are a blessing in the heat and humidity of D.C. in the summer (worth stopping in just for that).

The Hirshorn also has an app that allows you to view video and articles about the works as you go through the museum. The sculpture garden outside even has an app that plays music and CHANGES as you meander through the grounds.

The Hirshhorn’s Book Store

The Hirshhorn has one of the better book/gift shops in the Smithsonian Museums. In general, modern art gift shops tend to be interesting because of the focus on design that translates into cool jewelry, stationery, and housewares. This shop is no exception.

There’s also an interesting, if smallish collection of books. Here are some that caught my eye:

50 Women Artists You Should Know

I’m a sucker for this type of book because I love to check them off.

Forgotten Women: The Artists

Yes, there is a book in this series about authors too.

Girl With Brush and Canvas

It turns out that this is a Young Adult fictionalized biography, but I might read it, just the same. I’ve always been interested in Georgia O’Keefe. The author has written similar books about other famous women.