Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Jul 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Great Inspirations

greatinsperations1MAH’s most breathtaking work of the season delves into the art and history of China

Enter. Then clap. Now look around—quickly. Did you catch it? Stand by the eccentric greenhouse sculpture in the main lobby of the Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center in downtown Santa Cruz. Now clap again. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that a horde of fake flowers in cozy pots will dance when you clap your hands. It’s a rather adorable sight, surrounded by a rather not-so-adorable concept: global warming. The piece, “Green House Tent Dress,” is “a comment on how the U.S. and China need to work on our policies of conservation,” says museum spokesperson Theresa Myers. And the twirling flowers that dance? “I think it has to do with paying attention,” says Susan Hillhouse, curator for the museum. “We’re living things and we want to survive.”

The Green House Tent Dress installation is, according to Hillhouse and Myers, a convergence of China and the U.S., and serves as an idyllic entry point for the museum-wide exhibition, “Ying: Inspired by the Art and History of China,” which is on display at the museum until June 29. There’s no doubt that this show is exceptionally noteworthy.

Next turn left and begin your walk toward the first floor Lezin Family Gallery. But on your way, look up, and up, and up—all the way to the third floor. Hanging right smack in the middle of everything is an unbelievable three-story mobile constructed by local artist Mattie Leeds. It’s a remarkable piece made of driftwood, small paintings, calligraphy on paper, and so on.

“Mattie is a Santa Cruz artist who … studied with a Chinese master for 10 years,” Hillhouse says. Referencing the found objects from the beach in the mobile, Hillhouse adds, “They all come from the Pacific Ocean. You can either say we’re separated by the Pacific Ocean or connected by the Pacific Ocean.”

Leeds’ piece is called, “Flotsam and Jetsam Ascending the Staircase,” and it does just that. As visitors wind their way up the three floors of stairs, “Flotsam and Jetsam” is with them the entire time.

Not far from the “Flotsam and Jetsam” piece is the Lezin Family Gallery, which hosts the work of various artists from a town in China called Chengde. Here, Hillhouse points out two paintings by Huo Wenqing. The pieces are called “Girl #1” and “Girl #3.” The detached names of the pieces represent the detached nature of the subjects in the paintings—girls in China. As is commonly known, Chinese families are restricted to having one child per family. Beyond that, “you’re greatly penalized and your child can’t register, go to school or get medical assistance,” Hillhouse says. Your child has a non-life. … Many Chinese girls are adopted by Westerners … the girls (in China) are anonymous.” This is depicted with each girl being painted nearly identical. “It’s like they don’t get recognized as being individuals,” Hillhouse adds.

greatinsperations2Moving from the first floor gallery, up the stairs to the spacious Solari Gallery, Hillhouse explains how the exhibit came to be: “It was many years in the planning,” she says. “I was invited almost 10 years ago to come to China to curate a show and do some lectures. It didn’t work out. So, in 2006 they invited me back and I went there and met the artists downstairs (those featured in the Lezin Family Gallery).” Combining the work of the nine artists that she met there, with numerous other Chinese artists (including a woman she met in an airport), alongside the work of Chinese-American artists, and American artists who are influenced by Chinese work, and borrowing pieces from collections, Hillhouse has created an eye-popping, educational, historical show.

On the second floor, in the Solari Gallery, the first thing you take in is a replica of a Chinese scholar’s room—a place where a scholar might do calligraphy, paint, write poetry or practice music.

In a far corner, the color of red teases your eyes. And up close, the piece is ethereal: Small disks of red thread run down two conjoined walls, falling onto the floor, scattered about with precision. Every disk is connected to another disk representing a Chinese story that says at birth your soul is connected to another soul by a red thread. The art piece, “Lure #2” was created by Beili Liu, a woman from China who currently lives in Michigan.

In the final gallery space in the Art Forum Gallery on the third floor, one piece in particular stands out—it’s an enormous painting by Chen Denqing, a Chinese painter who lived in New York for 20 years. The piece is an intriguing juxtaposition. On one side is a flamenco dancer with men surrounding her. The other half of the picture is a painting of people at Tiananmen Square. In one scene, celebration is happening, in another, the opposite.

The show is consuming and breathtaking. From soaking in paintings to wrapping your mind around Leeds’ mobile, it’s stunning to realize the history and art that is being unveiled in this museum.

“I think we’re trying to intersect art and the local Chinese history in Santa Cruz that was across the street from where Trader Joe’s (in downtown) is now—the area where Chinatown was established,” Myers says. “We’re trying to draw an international connection.”

Hillhouse adds that, “One of the goals is to offer a hand in friendship,” she says. “We’re at a precarious place in the world right now and I have long held the belief that if you know someone, it’s a lot harder to go to war with them or try to decimate their culture. … And so I feel this shows commonalities. In China, they’re looking at us, and we’re looking at them.”

“Ying: Inspired by the Art and History of China” is on display until June 29 at the Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center, 705 Front St., Santa Cruz. For more information, call 429-1964 or visit santacruzmah.org .

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Time is Ripe

Local fruit harvests hit markets, Storrs Winery celebrates ‘Best White’, and a salt fix from heaven

 

I remember Santa Cruz when…

Santa Cruz | Librarian

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Hunter Hill Cabernet Sauvignon

Smooth with soft tannins, this velvety crimson Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is delicious and very drinkable.