The Met’s New American Wing

“First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” The monumental canvas of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” (1851), by Emmanuel Leuntze is the centerpiece of the refurbished American wing at the Metropolitan Museum. The frame is a recreation of the original, based on a photograph of the painting by Matthew Brady when it appeared at a major exhibition in New York. Say what you will about its historic authenticity (it was painted in Germany, after all), the piece is an impressive and imposing work.

The re-working of the American wing is equally impressive. I particularly enjoyed the “visible storage” area, and the recreation of entire rooms from different periods of American history (including an early 20th century room by Frank Lloyd Wright). And I was struck by the number of paintings by Eakins and Sargent (including the latter’s experiments in impressionism).

I came to the Met on a break from preparing to move from my Brooklyn apartment (de-crapifying is what I’m calling it – purging my place of unneeded goods and stuff so I don’t have to unpack it on the other end) to visit the recently unveiled American wing and the Islamic art wing, which was redone last year.

Viral Joseph Kony

“Right now there are more people on Facebook than there were on the planet 200 years ago,” begins Jason Russell in a very affecting video that has gone viral this week. And Russell hopes to put those people to work to bring a warlord to justice. The video, which is nearly 30 minutes long, targets Joseph Kony, the leader of the fierce guerilla group called the Lord’s Resistance Army. Russell says he saw first hand the brutality of the LRA when he met and befriended children who had been conscripted as soldiers in Kony’s bloody and vicious campaign in the jungles of central Africa. Russell and a team of people with an NGO called Invisible Children made the video to launch a campaign to flush Kony from hiding using the pressure of a world-wide effort to make Kony a household name. Showing interviews with a boy he became friends with (who believes it would be better to die than continue living in misery), and rolling the camera while he tries to explain Kony’s brutality to his precocious son Gavin, Russell makes an emotionally compelling case.

There’s already some blowback on the campaign, here and over at the Washington Post, and a tumblr questioning the NGO’s accountability and tactics. And perhaps their campaign is naive. And maybe the group spends too much money on making films and not enough on the ground. But the web is a snarky place. See the film for yourself and decide.

Seeing the video reminded me of the excellent reporting done by filmmaker and journalist Ed Robbins in South Sudan in 2009. He created three pieces for TIME Video, including this one about a young man named Moses who was abducted by the LRA in Sudan. Though I’ve seen it many times, it still breaks my heart:

Russell has targeted 20 celebrities and 12 political power brokers to increase awareness about Kony and pressure politicians to act – including continued support of U.S. military assistance to the army in Uganda.

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