They're watching you. The eyes in the miniature paintings at the American Art Museum, that is. In this week's "Ask Joan of Art," an online feature by the museum's resident art experts, a visitor asked what was so special about miniature eye paintings. Lovers used to give miniature portraits of their eyes to each other to wear in secret, according to Joan of Art. The museum has seven of these miniature paintings in its collection. Read more about the history of the 18th century trend in Joan of Art’s column, or ask your own question via her website or Twitter.
Now that we know you’re wearing eyes, we might as well get personal. What's on your to-do list? How about in your suitcase? The way artists have represented those things are among the favorite items of Liza Kirwin, the curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art and the author of the new book Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists. In this online feature, she gives a tour of some of the items included in the book. Among them: Adolf Konrad’s (1915–2003) drawing of what he packed in his suitcase in 1963 on a trip to Cairo (including what appears to be red and white striped boxer shorts) and a page from Janice Lowry’s (1946–2009) journal, which blends a mix of things to do (like make a doctor’s appointment) with a drawing of a whimsical man wearing red-tipped elf slippers. An exhibit about the book is also showing in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
And while we're at it, what exactly do you do all day? We find out what some of our experts have been up to in this video feature (embedded above) about Off-Beat Smithsonian Experts, including a butterfly hatcher and a fossil-model maker. (How can you resist knowing what it takes to be a giant squid de-humidifier?)
But the burning question is, what would you do all day if you had to feed the zoo’s animals? “Making sure they eat their leafy greens,” of course, says Mike Maslanka, head nutritionist at the National Zoo. Go behind the scenes with this video that shows how nutritionists prepare eats for the 2,000 animals that live there. (Including how they helped their male Andean Bear, Nikki, shed a few pounds.)