Yesterday, I visited a couple Smithsonian museums with my parents, who were in town to see Philip play Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. (He's most amazing and has gotten tons of fab reviews from all the press in town, including the Washington Post.)
I finally got to see the Walt Disney-Tishman collection of African art at the African Art Museum. The collection, over 500-pieces strong, is only partially displayed (about 85 pieces) and is most remarkable. The artistry of the Yoruban people as well as folks from parts of Central Africa is stunning and deeply moving on emotional and spiritual levels.
The mask pictured at left struck me because of its relation to the spider mysteries that I mention in the post below. The eyes of the mask are made of spider's silk, and the tribe would ingest crushed-up spider bodies in divination potions. Given that I've often worked with Grandmother Spider on viewing the world with a spider's eyes, I loved that this mask helped the wearer to do that. Plus, while looking at it, I felt a real surge of power from the mask itself and its history.
Many of the masks in the exhibition were really large and made me wonder how on earth people danced while wearing them (or how they even kept their heads upright). This example, and others, really gave me an energetic zing while looking at them, and at times, I could hear whisperings in other tongues from the objects themselves.
When I go to a museum, I try just to look and experience without reading placards until after I feel I've gotten my own intuitive information from it. Often, the energetic expression I get from the work coincides damn near perfectly with the avaialble scholarship on the piece.
The Disney-Tishman collection is on display through Sept. of this year, so if you're in town, I highly recommend it. Check out more information here.