Behind the Scenes

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I am inspired by anything associated with the National Gallery of Art. If I could decamp there overnight or longer, I would in a heartbeat.

I received what I’d like to think was a nice birthday present a few weeks ago, when I woke up to read this article about Mark Leithauser, Chief of Design at the NGA, my former boss and exceptionally talented painter and exhibition designer. Fortunately, we’ve stayed in touch over the years. I can really relate to how Mark describes his work at the NGA:

“I think what you want to do as an exhibit designer is to make the work feel at home. Some of the modern art, if you put them on a white wall they look old. Some Picassos are almost 100 years old, and if they only have white walls, they look like they are in a laboratory.”

1_Mark-Leithauser_NGA_via Washington Post, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

The Washington Post calls him, “The Invisible Museum Artist” who “spends a lot of time focused on the background.” There is definitely a talent to making all aspects of the exhibition work together in order to give the viewer an intimate experience with the art. As an artist and academic, Mark can bridge all these components seamlessly together, sometimes without much notice but that’s the magic and the illusion of not showing what goes on behind the scenes that makes it work.

Mark-Leithauser_Illusions via Hollis-Taggart, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

I guess since I couldn’t stay in Exhibition Design, I’m finding ways to execute what I love with painting, Art History and Design with Casart coverings:

“This is what we are trying to do with the types of wallcovering designs that we offer for Casart coverings. They are supposed to make one’s furnishing feel at home. We don’t want to compete but complement with what someone already has in their home. Therein the reason for some of our subtle decorative finishes like faux-linen and colorwash. As a decorative painter, I typically do not do finishes that are over-the-top but rather enhance a client’s decor. The patterns that we offer give some figurative styling to a background but unlike traditional or more busy patterns that appear as definite manufactured repeats, ours are meant to look hand-painted or illustrated and randomly placed, as if they were painted directly on the wall.”

Some of our designs also are also inspired by artwork and exhibitions, as our Birds & Birch was sparked by the Gaman exhibit.

Casart-coverings_Birds-Birch_1x_Art Is Everywhere

I think Apples in Stereo, The Bird That You Cannot See seems appropriate for this post and to Kick-Start the Weekend.


I was unfamiliar with the arts that came out of the Japanese American Internment Camps. This is the theme of The Renwick exhibit, The Art of Gaman, Arts and Creafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942 – 1946. There are more than 120 pieces that were produced by the prisoners to lessen the grimness of their camp life. These include musical instruments, household ornaments, teapots and craft objects. Gaman in Japanese means “to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience.” I’ve just added a new word to my vocabulary. This new discovery, new word of the day and these birds are very inspirational for one of my new designs that I’m working on for Casart coverings. I couldn’t have asked for better timing. This is exhibit is on view from March 5 – January 30, 2011.

Gaman birds via Wahington Post Magazine

On a side note, since this article was also in the Washington Post Magazine, this is a sad, but inspirational article about Frank Connell in Whatever Happened to The Red Bean’s Owner by Tyler Currie. He has closed up his restaurant in DC and despite many adversities he’s back in the city he loves, New Orleans, making the best of it with moving onto other goals. His story is typical of someone from New Orleans — they are strong, sometimes eccentric folk, who make the best of it and move forward when things are tough.

Frank Connell via Washington Post

It seems like Peter Murphy’s Cuts You Up from his Wild Birds album is an appropriate music to Kick Start Your Weekend. Enjoy a good blast from the past.