Exploring 'Wonder' at the Renwick Gallery-Washington, D.C.


Washington, D.C. is full of amazing museums (many with new exhibits every few months), theaters that put on world-class productions, fantastic restaurants and the home of the President of the United States. I love living so close to Washington, D.C. and having such amazing learning resources at my fingertips.

A few days ago, my family and I were able to visit the Renwick Gallery. As we were stopped at a red light next to the museum, a motorcade sped past us-it was of course President Obama. See, isn't Washington, D.C. just the coolest city? It is definitely one of my favorites.

The Renwick gallery is literally steps away from the front doors of the White House and sits at 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The museum also sits right in front of the main entrance gate to the White House/Blair House (so don't be nervous by the presence of all the Secret Service officers).


The Renwick Gallery was named in honor of its architect, James Renwick, Jr (famed for St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City). The construction of the gallery marked an important moment in the cultural history of the United States. You see, it was the first time a building had been designed expressly as an art museum. In the 1960's the museum became increasingly-dilapidated. Thankfully it was rescued from demolition by First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy who wanted to restore and keep the historic buildings in Washington, D.C. Speaking of restoration, the Renwick Gallery just had a major (and much needed) two year renovation and recently reopened its doors in November of 2015.


Wonder is the first exhibition since the Renwick Gallery reopened to the public in 2015 after a major renovation. WONDER features nine major contemporary artists;Renwick3

Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin & Leo Villareal

The installation of Wonder transforms the Renwick Gallery building into a work of art that you have to see to believe. Each exhibit encompasses a room and each make you wonder...which is exactly the point.



sculpture by: Patrick Dougherty

When you first walk into the Renwick building you are lead to the right where after a short line you arrive into a tall room filled 16 1/2 feet high tented sculptures made entirely of....sticks. The sticks are sculpted and twisted around each other. Some of the sculptures lean to the left, some to the right and some just lean against the wall. For a moment, it almost looks like the sculptures are moving or dancing. When I stopped to wonder about these sculptures, they seemed to look like larger-than-life bird's nests. These nests are so large in fact, it was literally impossible to get them to fit into a full photo. My 5-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter looked so tiny flanked by these larger than life stick sculptures. It was such a neat experience to look around the room and see families gathering inside the sculptures to get a closer look and a few photos.


Plexus A1

sculpture by: Gabriel Dawe

Walking around the bend and into the next room, you immediately hear "oohs and aahs," from the people around you. Before your very eyes a rainbow of brilliant, dazzling colors appears. This however, is no ordinary rainbow. The artwork has been made from embroidery thread hooked from floor to ceiling repeatedly. It creates almost a dream-like rainbow floating in the air. It was thrilling to watch my 9-year-old daughter gaze upon the artwork and tell us her opinion about the piece. As you can tell from the picture to your left, my daughter wasn't the only one enthralled with this piece of art.


Middle Fork

sculpture by: John Grade

In the next room, a sculpture hung horizontally taking up the entire room. As soon as I rounded the corner, I recognized that the sculpture was actually a tree. This tree however was made up of tiny pieces of wood. I later learned that the tree is actually the casting of a 150 hemlock tree from the Cascade Mountains. The artist, John Grade took a casting of the 40 foot tree and then using about a 1/2 million segments of reclaimed cedar, Grade and and hundreds of volunteers glued each piece to the cast.



sculpture by: Tara Donovan

Wonder what you'll get when you stack a million index cards on top of one another?

If it's up to artist Tara Donovan, you will get 10 large and looming sculptures which range from 8-13 feet tall. That is exactly what you are met with in the next room of the Renwick. Seeing the exhibit took me back to my days as a college student surrounded by index cards, term papers and books. The exhibit however didn't invoke stress in me. It was actually quite peaceful standing among these giant mountains of white stacked cards. Part of me wanted to dive into them and get lost in the shuffle of falling cards. In another light, they could almost pass for snow covered mountains-majestic and strong towering over the people below.


In the Midnight Garden

sculpture by Jennifer Angus

When you walk into one of the second floor galleries you first notice the hot pink wallpaper adorning the walls. That is, until you get close enough to realize that the wallpaper are actually bugs lining the walls. The different size, colors and species of bugs actually make up different shapes such as skulls, flowers and circles along the four walls. While some people were a bit squeamish in this room, my husband and I absolutely loved it and my kids thought it was "cool and gross!"

There are quite a few more exhibits to 'Wonder,' but you will have to visit the Renwick Gallery to see the rest. Hurry, it's only open for a few more months!

Wonder will close in two phases:

Second-floor galleries will close May 8, 2016

First-floor galleries will close July 10, 2016

Wonder is a thrill to see and a wonder to behold. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I did!