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Art and Science on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Last week I enjoyed a kind of homecoming as I played tourist in my adopted home city of Washington, D.C.

I started off at the National Gallery of Art, where one of my favorite pieces is Vincent Van Gogh’s Vase with Roses:

To stand inches from the painting is to brush with greatness. Since it is not encased in glass, the viewer can see the artist’s strokes, the blended colors, even the places where the canvas peeks through. Created in 1890, near end of the artist’s confinement at the asylum at St. Remy, the painting uses a limited palette of mostly greens and ivories, but the artist’s sensuality shines through the passionate thickness of some of his brushwork, the precise detail, and the vibrancy of the light.

Later, I visited the Air and Space Museum where a new permanent exhibit, “America by Air”, recalls some of the significant moments in commercial aviation.

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Then, I crossed the Capitol Mall in search of fossils at the Museum of Natural History. I found what I was looking for in the form of a 3D HD movie of a U2 concert in Argentina. Or maybe it was a celebration of socialism; it’s hard to tell the difference. I could have lived without the homage to the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights. But the HD was sharp enough to reveal the bulge of Larry’s triceps, the strings on Adam’s bass, the weave of the Edge’s skullcap, and the lines on Bono’s face. At times, the camera shot from several rows back, as the throng of worshippers waved hands, cameras, and articles of clothing. With the sound cranked, it was just like being there.

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