Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pastry and the National Portrait Gallery: Off Topic But You'll Thank Me If You Live in DC

Posted by Alan Childress

A series of disparately-envisioned portraits of Sandra Day O'Connor is the latest special exhibit in the recently-reopened National Portrait Gallery in DC next to the Verizon Center (take Gallery Place Metro), a free museum known more for its Washingtons and Jeffersons.  I hear good things about it and will check it out soon.  I hope they captured her steely gaze.

But readers from DC should know about a more personal portrait exhibit nearby, unshowingly plopped down at the pastry and coffee shop Au Bon Pain at Metro Center station on G at 13th NW.  A remarkable woman named Mary Rand (no relation to the CIA, she says, oddly) usually hangs out there in the mornings, sits at a table with her coffee, and is willing to draw for you, from a photo or two you bring her (the more angles and detail, the better, though I have seen her work from snapshots and school photos).  The renditions are amazingly accurate and visually arresting, better than any of those expensively-hired artists we yuppies usually get to do this sort of thing to our children or dogs.  (I am actually too old and in debt to be a yuppy but whatever--no doubt I am the target market for her if she had any marketing expertise.  She doesn't seem to, as you'd have to stumble onto her as I did looking for streudel, and she prices way too low but I am talking her up on that and it'll still be a huge bargain.) 

Despite her talent, or perhaps because of it in an expensive city that does not easily support its most gifted, Mary has fallen on hard times and you will have to negotiate around her cart which holds most of her life to be able to retain her.  When you negotiate that retainer, please be generous (these works take care and time), but mainly because it will still be well worth it to you and the loved one to whom you present her work.  With even a modest frame added, this could be the most personal and wonderful gift you give yourself or a grandparent.  And cheaper than a couple Nintendo games.  I doubt any of the O'Connor artists have more talent. My experience from looking at other family portrait renditions is that they usually are reminiscient or evocative of the subject--you can guess who that is.  These are dead on.  Oh, and Mary likes cheese danish too and is genuinely surprised and pleased when you throw that into the deal.  Thank me later in comments (that's my kickback).


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Thanks for the tip Alan - finally posted! And I'm definitely going to try to see Mary one of these days...

Posted by: Jenny | Apr 26, 2007 10:07:42 AM

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