News & Current Exhibitions

Barbara Lee Smith

Passages Art Exhibit

Barbara Lee Smith & Joyce Watkins King

Passages are transitions, the in-between spaces that often don’t command our attention. But when we step back and look or listen more closely, they can gain in importance.


Barbara Lee Smith and Joyce Watkins King were introduced to each other by mutual artist friends and curators in 2019. Perhaps it was because they both have a strong sense of materiality in their work, making compositions from fiber, fabric, and garment parts combined with ink, paint, and stitch.


They enjoyed sharing their art and life experiences with one another, quickly realizing why their friends had introduced them. Even though the artists chose the title “Passages” for this exhibition prior to the global pandemic, the title still suits their work now, three years later.

Smithsonian Article

A Friendship Forged in the Archives

At first glance, it might seem like Maine writer and illustrator Jessica Esch happened upon the Archives of American Art by chance. After all, she loves and oftentimes inexplicably lands in a good repository of knowledge.


But the truth is, while perhaps Jess didn’t realize her exact destination, she’d been climbing toward the Archives with the confidence and enthusiasm of a free soloist for a very long time. Because that’s what Jess does: she climbs.


One foothold leads to another and another and another. Her focus pairs with curiosity as she engages with the most amazing people, places, and life lessons along her route. I’ve had the joy of watching her and, in many cases, benefiting from the trickle-down effect. Perhaps the best part is witnessing Jess when she reaches a summit so high and glorious it changes her forever. Such was the case when she arrived at the Archives, especially when she encountered mixed media and textile artist Barbara Lee Smith.