Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 08th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Oakland Museum

ae_omcaFreshly Redesigned it is a California Dream
The new director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, Nina Simon, champions “the participative museum” and promises to make MAH a more interactive place, part of the daily life of the community. For tangible evidence of how exhilarating a “participative museum” can be, visit the redesigned Oakland Museum of California.

The museum has three components:  the recently redesigned California art and California history buildings, and a natural sciences building which reopens in 2012.  Originally dedicated in 1969 as the “museum of the people,” the post-modernist Kevin Roche-architected building was lauded then as an example of innovative museum design. Sprawling over four city blocks in the Lake Merritt side of downtown Oakland, its scored concrete exterior rises forbiddingly above street level, but atop the broad, welcoming staircase the concrete forgets to be fortress-like. Light plays dramatically on the interlocking planes of buildings and staircases and leads the visitor to arbors and gardens, restaurant and inviting tables amid trees and nooks where artworks delight. A huge Viola Frey figure guards the entrance to the art wing.

Oakland Museum claims “the most comprehensive collection of California art and culture in the world.” The art building’s 5,600 square feet of additional space and new attitude brilliantly represent the energy and creativity of California: the dramatic interior leads the viewer ever-deeper into galleries divided by freestanding walls that present ideas arranged thematically, not chronologically. California Land, California People and Creative California are the overarching ideas within which themes like Identity, Living Modern and Radical Acts offer a framework for daring juxtapositions. The Urban theme, for instance, ranges from a 1882 painting of Alameda streets to Manuel Ocampo’s Map of L.A. The idea represented by such intriguing diversity is augmented by peripheral glimpses of adjacent galleries. Nearby, Robert Hudson’s sculpture, Double Time, is surrounded by low desks which offer 3-D glasses to augment the composition of stripes and vivid interlocking shapes, earphones to hear music played in double time and a chance to write and draw, inspired by clever prompts. On the other side, a huge Barry McGee installation makes the connection to graffiti. Isn’t such peripheral stimulus the way that California creates?

The collection of California art of the last 150 years includes a deep representation of Bay Area Figurative art all held together by an extraordinary gallery of works by Richard Diebenkorn, which carry the viewer from figuration to abstraction. The Dorothea Lange archive finds a counterpoint in a collection of f.64 photographers. The Conceptual Art area might well convert the unbelievers.  Throughout, participative exhibits invite visitors to get involved. A temporary Michael McMillan exhibit, Train of Thought, peppered throughout the galleries, weaves another dimension of wild wit into each theme and provides a great reason to visit before Aug. 14.

Maureen Davidson writes about the arts as The Exhibitionist. This column and her radio spot and blog at are funded in part by a grant from the Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Red Scars

Mao’s politics made personal in poignant Chinese family drama ‘Coming Home’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist