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Bethesda’s Hidden Gem: The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum | Arts & Culture

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Bethesda’s Hidden Gem: The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum
Arts & Culture
Bethesda’s Hidden Gem: The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum

Tucked away in a house located at 10001 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda lies some of the most beautiful photography, statues, and artwork in the area.

This month, the museum is hosting “Slices of Life” featuring the photography of local artists: Jesse Berry, Lucy Blankstein, Chuck Bress, Zandra Chestnut, Keith Egli, Nicholas Fan, Lee Goodwin, Michael Oberman, Arlene Polangin, and Jerry Weinstein.

I spoke with Stella Bernstein, the Ratner Museum Administrative Director to learn more about the museum and “Slices of Life.”

“You’re in the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum,” began Bernstein.  “They’re cousins. Dennis Ratner owns different businesses, one being the Hair Cutteries that are around town. Phillip is the artist. Phillip is best known for creating the five founders. They’re at the base of the statue of liberty. He was also asked to look through hundreds of photographs and create sculptures for Ellis Island. So he has 41 pieces there. We have ten of those here.”

Phillip Ratner’s works range from pieces in the Smithsonian, the Supreme Court, the White House, and the list keeps going.

“Around Washington he did the panda bear at the zoo, he did the statue at Suburban (hospital), the globe at the University of Maryland,” continues Bernstein.

Bernstein took me on a tour of the “Slices of Life” exhibit. One my favorite photographs was  Arlene K. Polangin’s Father’s Day “Her photographs range from fun to the serious,” said Bernstein.

Jesse F. Berry’s Peruvian Imp portrait of a young girl in a rainbow sweater also caught my eye, “He loves to travel. He’s been all around the world,” tells Bernstein.

Keith Egli’s portraits were beautiful. “He normally photographs a lot of celebrities. But his passion is photographing people that aren’t well known and bringing out their personalities,” Bernstein tells me.

As for Michael Oberman, “He loves nature. He photographs, puts the works up on canvas, so the works look like paintings and the work actually pops out from it. The interesting thing about the show is that these six pieces are all taken in Columbia, MD and most people don’t realize that these actually exist”

I also loved the work of Chuck Bress, whose jazz negatives were just accepted at the Smithsonian.

 “A lot of the things I tell people nowadays are that anyone can take a photograph with a lot of the technology and the cameras. You don’t really have to be accomplished; you just have to know how to push the lever, or the button. The difference between taking a picture and what a photographer does is of course knowing composition, knowing light, knowing what you want to have in that frame and being able to click fast. Some photographers may take 50 to 100 shots and others take 3. It just depends on their different abilities. But that’s why you appreciate a photographer’s work because they’re doing things they know,” said Bernstein.

“Slices of Life” will be held from January 2 to January 30, 2011.

This Sunday, January 9, 2011 there will be a Reception to meet the Artists from 1:30-3:30pm.

Arts & Culture