Day at the Smithsonian: Direct Carving and Experience America

Today I saw a couple great shows at the Smithsonian American Art Museum— Direct Carving and Experience America.

I often blanch at the heaviness of modern public sculpture. I stand in front of a piece and wonder what I’m supposed to feel. Direct Carving leaves me with no questions— you can see everything laid out before you.

Here’s a snip on Experience America:

The 1930s was a heady time for artists in America. Through President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the federal government paid them to paint and sculpt and urged them to look to the nation’s land and people for subjects. For the next decade —until World War II brought support to a halt—the country’s artists captured the beauty of the landscape, the industry of America’s working people, and a sense of community shared in towns large and small despite the Great Depression.

Many of the paintings in Experience America were created in 1934 for a pilot program designed to put artists to work; others were produced under the auspices of the WPA, which followed. The thousands of paintings, sculptures, and murals placed in schools, post offices, and other public buildings stand as a testimony to the resilience of Americans during one of the most difficult periods of our history.

Great stuff.

Bonus: Outwin 2016.

I Take Pictures: 2015 Output Review

Flickr is an essential place for my documentary life. Here’s a look at what I’ve posted there in the last year.


I track my trips in pictures. I went on 19 trips this year, which added to my overall total of 130 trips documented in this collection. My trips are broadly broken down into travel to conferences (TreeFort/ HackFort in Boise was a huge highlight), my work on the boards of the Sunlight Foundation (yay for NYC and Aspen) and Voqal (Albuquerque and Denver ftw), as well as a mega-fambly trip to London and Paris and some smaller family stuff as well. Also: annual Austin pilgrimage.

I posted 3,450 images from these trips. Literally only God knows how many I shot in order to get it down to that number— maybe 15,000?

Street Battle of the Bands, Boise


Documentation isn’t just for making the conduct of my life more considered and effective— I also do it as my art. I took photos at Lincoln Marsh six times this year. I took the exact same photos as I have 42 times over the last six years, in an attempt to document how an Illinois natural areas changes through the seasons.

I did a number of other projects. I captured a photo of every flower entered in the Wyandot County Fair contest this year, I did a photo essay on the August 2015 City of Chicago Budget Hearing at Malcolm X College, documented a meticulously painted Fun House, captured the unveiling of an honorary street sign, as well as the politicians of the 2015 Bud Billiken Parade and the Frank Lloyd Wright Meyer May House in Grand Rapids, MI. I took dozens of portraits of youth and opening day of the 606. I documented the work of a hula hoop artist in Las Vegas, the Chihuly exhibit at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL.

I caught a few minutes of a protest in front of City Hall and the financial district. I answered the question, “what did the Geneva Spur Near Reed Keppler Park look like in December 2015?“, even though maybe nobody asked me.

Lincoln Marsh at Dusk, Early Spring, March 2015


Family-wise, I was happy to document baseball seasons. To me, these aren’t just pics of my kids (though that is definitely a big part of it). I do this to try to capture what it was like to be 15 in 2015 and playing baseball in the summer in North America. What does it look like, feel like. What kind of light poles and bulbs did they have? What were the uniforms made of? What kind of typography do they use for lettering? Did it rain? What was the impact of that? What was the name of the preschool next to the field?

And yes, the personal. How tall was my son on his confirmation day? It’s important to get every configuration, and a pic with his mother, so she can have that, forever. So we can remember the Director of Religious Education, because she is wonderful and helped my babies grow.

Caleb, Mrs. Brennan, and CXO


At work, I’m proud of my part in the PACER postcard campaign with my fellow documentarian, Carl Malamud. I hosted the Madonna Scholars for a Saturday of learning, Youth-Led Tech style. I did a lot of CUTGroup pics, but by the end of the year we hired a new professional to do that for us— bringing the next one up. I caught meetups, conferences, and events.

Madonna Scholars

I love to capture what happened, archive it for all to see, and share it. More to come!

Language Used in Scoring Cattle


Here’s a video I made of a cattle show judge, capturing the language he used to score:

This September I finally made it to the Wyandot County Fair in Ohio. Shawn-Laree’s mother was born and raised on Fort Royal Farm in Cary, Ohio, and this is the county fair that has been central to their family for generations. Here’s a photo essay I did on the farm a while back:

Fort Royal Farm

And here’s a video essay:

Fourth of July 2013 at Fort Royal Farm, Carey, Ohio from Daniel X. O’Neil on Vimeo.

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