Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Artists share their inspirations at the Phillips Collection

Each year, The Phillips Collection, an art museum located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, showcases the work of its employees in the James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show. On Oct. 13, the museum hosted a reception for the show, which coincides with the museum’s 90th anniversary. The artists, museum employees and art aficionados of all ages attended the event.

Over the course of the evening, several artists spoke about their works. These artists explained their background, methods, and inspirations, with many citing childhood as a key influence in their work.

“I am most interested in combining the ideas of Western and Eastern fusion,” Alice Shih said, adding that her cultural background has influenced her interest in the subject. She also noted that she has been aware of the dichotomy that exists between the two since childhood.

Her piece in the show, entitled “New Ground,” is simple and organic in nature, despite the deep black ink markings that characterize the work.

“There’s something very grounding about going back to the idea of ink on paper and discovering an image,” Shih said.

Shih described her process as responsive to the course of the piece. At various stages in the creative process, Shih soaks her piece in water. The result allows her design to evolve, taking it in unforeseen directions.

Several artists also noted that The Phillips Collection was the driving force behind their artistic pursuits.

“The Phillips Collection got me thinking about the creative process. It’s the reason I went to art school,” Rolf Rykken said.

Rykken began his artistic career later in life, and as a result, his artwork has been greatly influenced by the museum, where he worked before becoming an artist. Rykken’s artwork reflects the age of social media. His piece in the show is based on a photo he discovered on the Facebook page of a barn. Colorful and bold, his work depicts four horses huddled over a dog. The piece is aptly titled, “Who Invited the Dog?”

During his talk, Rykken showed viewers the photo on which the piece is based, noting that his works always diverge significantly from the original, in terms of both coloring and overall design. Rykken draws additional inspiration from his daily life, stating that he consistently incorporates his dogs into his paintings.

Vicki Silverman, another artist who cited the museum as the reason for her current involvement in the arts, spoke last. Like Rykken, the inspiration for Silverman’s piece came from her personal life. Her piece, entitled “The Swimmer,” depicts her friend’s efforts to improve her health and quality of life.

Silverman also discussed her hiatus from the arts, saying, “Like Georgia O’Keefe, after my hiatus I challenged myself to do what I do not do best.”

Silverman has continued to push herself to work with unfamiliar media, seeking to become a better artist and person.

“It’s so wonderful to keep working and to keep your eyes open always,” Silverman said.

The show is on view through Nov. 19.

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