As Bouquets to Art kicks off its 27th year at the de Young, floral exhibitors poured in with every type of flower and foliage imaginable. We followed floral artist Hiromi Nomura of Belle Flora, who was born and raised in Tokyo, to trace the day in the life of a flower and pay tribute to Japan following last week’s devastating earthquake.
One of the rarest pieces in our Olmec exhibition at the de Young is a carved human bust made of a tropical variety of cedar tree. Over three thousand years old, the bust has survived this long because it was buried at the bottom of a freshwater bog for most of its life.
Archaeologists believe it was placed in the bog, along with thirty-six other busts, by the Olmec as part of a large offering, probably in response to a long-term problem facing the community, such as a flood or drought. The busts were bundled in vegetable mats and buried along with other objects of high value—some of which are also in the exhibition.
Researchers think the Olmec chose the spring, named El Manatí for a nearby hill and the manatees that were abundant in the area, as a site for important offerings because it represented a culmination of important elements. The Olmec believed water and mountains were imbued with sacred qualities, including fertility, and saw tall hills both as a meeting point between the earth and the sky and as “mansions of the rain god.” The area was also abundant in hematite, an iron-rich red pigment that researchers believe the Olmec associated with blood.
Rembrandt Peale (American, 1778–1860), George Washington, ca. 1850.
Oil on canvas. 53.15.1
Presenting the first blog post by communications intern Gauthier Melin.
The Chinese artist Shi Guorui produced this photograph of the Donner Pass by creating a pinhole camera obscura. The photographic method is just like the oatmeal container pinhole camera you might have made in grade school, but on a much larger scale. The artist put a single small hole in the side of an otherwise light-sealed semi-trailer truck. The light rays passed through this small hole forming an inverted image on a long, curved sheet of sensitized photographic paper. We were told that the artist meditated during the hours-long exposure time.
At 4 feet 2 inches x 17 feet 2 inches, Donner Pass is one of the largest photographs in the Museums’ collection. Due to its unique size, installation required much advanced planning to come up with a method of hanging that was not only safe for the photograph, but also met the visions of the artist and curators. As the artist preferred the immediacy of the uncovered photograph placed directly on the wall, a tailored system of hinging materials and frame installation methods was devised by the paper conservation laboratory to safely meet this vision.
After much preparation, the day of installation had arrived.
Regulars to the permanent galleries at the de Young will notice a new addition to Gallery 23 on the upper gallery level—the anonymous painting titled Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila, ca. 1843–1845. The painting depicts the children of Reverend William Anderson Scott (1813–1885), a Presbyterian minister in New Orleans from 1842 to 1854. The spire of the First Presbyterian Church where Dr. Scott was pastor is visible at the center of the city’s skyline.
On Friday, September 17, in celebration of Mexico's bicentennial, the de Young is offering free admission to the permanent collection galleries from 5–8:45 pm in conjunction with Friday Nights at the de Young. In honor of the bicentennial, the de Young proudly presents an evening of film, fashion, dance and music to celebrate Mexico's artistic achievements. This event is organized by the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco.
Generally the de Young’s artist studio is the home of one artist and their process. Museum patrons can engage in a specific artist’s technique and area of expertise. For the month of September, four artists of the Kearny Street Workshop (www.kearnystreet.org <http://www.kearnystreet.org> ) transform the Kimball Education Gallery. Throughout the month, one to four artists will be involving the public in their different processes.
On August 19th, I sat down with current Artist-in-Residence, Alexandra Blum, to learn more about her artistic background and the connection between teaching and creating art. Ms. Blum strives to humanize the private expereince by bringing in different techniques that transform museum going into a shared technique.
(Naomi Huth currently works as an intern for the Public Programs Department at the de Young.)