My husband and I braved the freezing rain last Sunday for a visit to the East Wing of the National Gallery with some friends. Since my first visit in the late 1970’s, I never get tired of seeing this museum and I always come home with lots of new ideas.

The Henri Matisse cutouts are some of my favorites and I was glad to be able to see them–they are only on view at certain hours on certain days because exposure to light damages the colors.

Henri Matisse Cutouts at the East Wing - Cindy Grisdela

Henri Matisse Cutouts at the East Wing – Cindy Grisdela

I’m always entranced by these pieces because they were created out of necessity at the end of the artist’s life when he could no longer paint. Matisse cut directly into large pieces of paper his assistants had painted different colors with scissors to create these designs, then he would direct the assistants where to put the pieces on the canvas. I’m not sure they “mean” anything, except as explorations of color and shape, and maybe they speak to me so much because that’s what I enjoy doing in my work–cutting into fabric to create dynamic shapes and lines. It was interesting to see some of Matisse’s earlier paintings elsewhere in the museum that used some of these same flower-type motifs.

Georgia O'Keefe Jack in the Pulpit paintings in the East Wing - Cindy Grisdela

Georgia O’Keefe Jack in the Pulpit paintings in the East Wing – Cindy Grisdela

These Georgia O’Keefe paintings of Jack in the Pulpit flowers were also intriguing as a group. I liked the way she went from painting the whole flower on the left to focusing on certain elements of the flower in the other canvases–that’s something I need to explore more. Take one motif and make it smaller, make it bigger, focus on one primary element at a time.

The O’Keefe paintings were in a gallery devoted to the artists who were exhibited in the Alfred Stieglitz gallery in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. I’ve been fascinated by this era of American art since I was in college studying art history and wrote a paper on Stieglitz and his influence on American abstraction.

Edward Steichen "Sunflower" painting East Wing - Cindy Grisdela

Edward Steichen “Sunflower” painting East Wing – Cindy Grisdela

Another artist in this gallery was Edward Steichen, who was known primarily as a photographer. But his “Sunflower” painting is one of my favorites. I’m not sure you’d know this was a painting of a sunflower without the title to tell you, but the colors, lines, and shapes make me smile!

Alexander Calder Sculpture with shadows East Wing Tower - Cindy Grisdela

Alexander Calder Sculpture with shadows East Wing Tower – Cindy Grisdela

And of course I could spend hours in the East Wing Tower that houses the sculptures of Alexander Calder. I’m intrigued by the shapes and lines in the image above–the balance in color, shape and line, plus the balance needed to make it stand upright are just fascinating. The featured image on this post gives a larger view of the tower gallery and the variety of sculpture there–it was such a nasty day out that the gallery was nearly deserted–lucky for me!

And below is the iconic image of the massive Calder sculpture in the East Wing entry that greets visitors every day.


My favorite East Wing view–Alexander Calder mobile–Cindy Grisdela

I treasure these inspiration days to visit art in different places–I always come away with a new way to look at things in my own work. Sometimes I get bogged down in the making of art and don’t have time to think about how to do things differently or more creatively. Getting out and seeing other art helps me to look at my own work with new eyes.

My next event is the Baltimore Craft Show February 23-25 at the Baltimore Convention Center, located at 1 West Pratt St. in Baltimore. Hours are 10-8 Friday, 10-6 Saturday, and 10-5 Sunday. You can buy your tickets online here and avoid the line at the door. I’m creating some new work and I hope to see you there!