Art Attack with Lee Sandstead
July 23, 2009
Art historian and Travel Channel host Lee Sandstead welcomes each visitor at the door of the McEvoy Auditorium wearing what he called hippie pants ("genuine polyester, not the fake stuff we have today") with the effervescent greeting, "I'll be your speaker tonight." Fasten your polyester pants; it's going to be an interesting evening.
Sandstead, whose show Art Attack on the Travel Channel has taken him to museums around the country including American Art, lives up to his reputation as "the world's most fired-up art historian." I'd say if you're out having a coffee with Sandstead, make sure he orders a decaf; the man produces his own natural blend of enthusiasm.
But how did Sandstead make the transition from growing up "in a house that was on wheels" to becoming a big wheel in the art world? According to him, it was the combination of education, and, lucky guy, the influence of his French girlfriend, perhaps as he told us, "the only French woman living in Tennessee." Beauty began to surround him. Down went the NASCAR posters and up went the reproduction Rembrandt prints. His life can be divided into two periods: BA and AA, Before Art and After Art. And for Sandstead, the after is where all the fun is.
Sandstead loves the American Art Museum (as well as the Luce Foundation Center) and featured it in an episode of _Art Attack._ He considers it one of the great cultural institutions in the United States. He likes walking its halls and pointing out Albert Bierstadt's _Among the Sierra Nevada, California_ in its own room. The museum offers plenty of examples for Sandstead to talk about one of his favorite periods in American art, from about 1874, almost a decade after the end of the Civil War, to the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. And he mentions works by Abbott Handerson Thayer and J. William Fosdick. "I love the Smithsonian American Art Museum," he told us. "It's one of the highlights of my career."
What I liked best about Sandstead's presentation, aside from his sheer tsunami of energy, were his thoughts on museums and museum going. "It's not the once in a year Disney trip," he reminded us. "It's more about looking at a few things carefully each trip, rather than trying to take in everything at once. You do it every week. Laugh, cry, skip, but don't touch the paintings."
- Art Attack, Lee Sandstead, Art History, Travel Channel, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum
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