Bridging the Divide: A Conversation with Catherine Herrera

Catherine Herrera is a Bay Area artist and filmmaker of Ohlone descent who has collaborated with the de Young Museum on numerous projects over the past several years. This Friday Night at the de Young, September 7, Herrera’s video installation Bridge Walkers will be on view for one night only in the observation deck on the ninth floor of the museum’s Hamon Education Tower. In this, the third installment of Five Days of Friday, director of public programs Renee Baldocchi sits down with Herrera to learn more about the installation and the artist’s practice.

Upraised hands

Still from Bridge Walkers

What was the inspiration for Bridge Walkers?

Bridge Walkers is inspired by an Ohlone elder who passed away before I was born and whose words honored community members who bridge time to maintain traditions. Bridge Walkers contemplates how tradition is passed down in contemporary society and highlights the elders, culture bearers, and activists who work every day to keep tradition alive. In the case of many sacred sites there is such a push and pull between tradition and progress, and I wanted to ask, “How do we as a society want to address that push and pull today? What do we gain when we preserve sacred sites, and what do we lose when they are ignored or destroyed?”

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Still from Bridge Walkers

Can you tell us a bit about your background as an artist?

My dad and grandfather first introduced me to photography—both as a profession and as an art form with a very important mission of connecting people, documenting time, and capturing life’s beauty and tragedy.

I worked as a photojournalist and news producer in Mexico and later in the U.S. I also began creating my own films and, in the process, trying to figure out who I was as an artist and as a person.

Portrait

Still from Bridge Walkers

Please describe some of the film and video projects you've been working on with us here at the de Young.

I am currently editing a short film about the extremely talented and dedicated Native American artists, Kim Shuck and Michael Horse, both of whom were Artists-in-Residence at the de Young. I’m really excited about that film because the work of both artists is so powerful and connects with audiences from all walks of life, and because the film gives a really powerful account of how Native artists bridge a general audience’s understanding and assumptions about Native peoples.

That short film is part of a larger project entitled Relations, which documents a year of Native American performances, exhibits, and presentations made possible with the help of the de Young's Native American Programming Advisory Committee (NAPAC).

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Still from Bridge Walkers

Relations considers the evolving relationship between museums and Native peoples through the innovative programming that has resulted from the work of NAPAC, and how audiences benefit from this new collaborative approach.

This Friday Night at the de Young, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will provide free valet bike parking! The first 100 cyclists to valet their bikes will receive $2 off admission to the de Young's permanent collection galleries that evening. Don’t ride a bike? Not to worry—the first 100 guests with a San Francisco Public Library card are also eligible to receive this discount.

For more information about Friday Nights at the de Young, contact Gregory Stock at gstock@famsf.org or 415.750.7694.

Follow us @deYoungMuseum on Twitter #FridayNightsDY.