Musician Bob Dylan might be the biggest name to be displaying artwork at the new MGM National Harbor casino resort, which opens Dec. 8. But the MGM National Harbor Heritage Collection also features three abstract mixed-media paintings by renowned Washington artist Sam Gilliam, sculptures by Alice Aycock and John Safer, and a large-scale landscape created by Brentwood artist Margaret Boozer, who used thousands of pounds of clay from the MGM construction site.
“It’s a map and metaphor,” Boozer, 50, said as she prepared the work for installation next week. The Potomac River, the District and parts of Virginia and Maryland are represented in the piece. “You can go back and forth, looking [at it] like an aerial view and like the ground under your feet.”
Boozer and a crew of 10 removed 10,000 pounds of clay from the construction site last October and brought it in five-gallon buckets to her Red Dirt Studio in Mount Rainier. She has spent the year creating the work, which will be installed in the hotel lobby.
Boozer said she had an idea of what she wanted to accomplish but had to be flexible to allow for how the clay would react.
“I set up some parameters, but there are also surprises that happen along the way, which is great and nerve-racking,” she said. “It can be hard and frustrating, but it can be the thing that gives life to the piece.”
Boozer, whose work has been collected by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the State Department, has worked with clay for years. “Clay is the most abundant material. It’s underfoot, it’s overlooked, it’s common and we don’t value common,” she said. “I happen to think it’s beautiful.”
MGM included several local artists in its collection, which pleased Boozer. “People often overlook what’s in their back yards,” she said. “This is a big deal in our county. I live here, I work here. This is a big deal.”
She also expressed delight at being included on a roster that also features Aycock — “one of my sculpture heroes since I was in college” — and Dylan. “I’m in great company,” she said.
Dylan’s 26-foot archway, titled “Portal,” is made of iron and found objects and will mark the western entrance to the property.
The collection also includes a sculpture by Chinese artist Liao Yibai, a mosaic by Maryland’s Martha Jackson Jarvis, bronze pieces by Georgetown sculptor John Dreyfuss and large-scale photographs by Terry O’Neill.