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Smithsonian Has High-Tech Flag for Presidents' Day

February 14, 2014

AP Photo/National Portrait Gallery

Brett Zongker, The Associated Press, February 14, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — A multimedia artist is bringing his 12-foot American flag that's viewed with Google Glass to the National Portrait Gallery for a special Presidents' Day weekend exhibition.

"Portrait of America" by New York-based artist David Datuna is the first artwork to use Google's Internet-connected eyeglasses, organizers said. It's part of Datuna's series of works entitled "Viewpoint of Billions." Datuna's "Portrait of America" will be on view Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the museum.

The flag installation is a collage made of plywood, newspapers and images of George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Lady Gaga and other figures. The top layer is made of hundreds of eyeglass lenses that give the piece a different look from different vantage points.

RELATED: Top Presidents' Day Ports With Links to the Past

In an interview, Datuna said he set out to tell a story that reflects American culture, its freedom of expression and the innovators who push the country forward.

"It's about people who really created this country. It's about people who wanted to change this country, build this country," Datuna said. "I want to show the American culture, the American journey."

Datuna was born in the then-Soviet era Georgia and later became a U.S. citizen. He said his passion for the U.S. began when he was about 5 years old and his father was arrested for listening to Elvis Presley. He wanted to know why someone could be arrested for listening to music.

Cameras embedded in the artwork and on Google Glass allow the viewer to become part of the artwork, and it evolves over time, exploring connections between art and technology. Visitors can have their portraits taken wearing Google Glass and share them on social media.

The National Portrait Gallery, which houses the U.S. presidential portraits, also is hosting a family day on Saturday with various activities for children and a story day on Sunday with a story about President Abraham Lincoln.


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