Making Art, Washington DC

Marc’s ID card for Smithsonian Institution, c. 1975

In July 1974, as the recipient of a Smithsonian Fellowship I temporarily moved to Washington DC for a residency in the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA) to research and write my doctoral dissertation.  Usually a Smithsonian Fellowship lasts one year, but as I was reluctant to leave New York City, my loft at 98 Bowery and adjunct teaching jobs, I committed to only six months.  My dissertation topic about the art associated with Lafayette’s Farewell Tour of America in 1824-25 had special relevance since 1976 marked the bicentennial of America’s independence.  I returned to New York for most of 1975 but moved back to DC in 1976 when I received a second Smithsonian Fellowship for another six-month stay.  

My time in Washington was dominated by work on my dissertation but my identity as a conceptual artist was emboldened by the success of my first New York exhibition.  On weekends I would hang out outside the White House photographing tourists with a telephoto lens as they exited from their tour.  On Sundays I set up a display at a small arts and crafts fair along the edge of the mall and talked people into drawing, writing, and otherwise participating in my interactive art.  A few times I took my camera into the NCFA where I photographed my colleagues at work and asked them to write captions.

My two stays in Washington totaled over a year and introduced me to two people who impacted both my life and art. When I first moved to Washington friends suggested that I contact Alice Denney who was the center of the city’s small art scene and just in the process of setting up the Washington Project for the Arts, a new “alternative space” where I exhibited frequently during the 70s.  And one Sunday on the mall I met Bettie Ringma when she stopped to participate in one of my conceptual art projects.  Bettie was an art therapy student and a photographer and we instantly connected. That chance meeting was the start of an eight-year artistic collaboration. Much of our collaborative work can be seen in the website sections that follow. 

Crosses Monograms Bandanas - 1974

What are you doing? - Washington, D.C., 1974


Christine, What Are You Doing?, Washington D.C., 1975

Christine, What Do You Think of This Photo?, 1975

Christine, What Do You Think of This Photo?, 1975

People and Their Money - 1975

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