Enter the Jawa: de Young Museum
A few weeks or months ago I was in Golden Gate Park looking for things to take photos of. I had never been to the area so there was no telling what would make the list of captures. Walking about the exterior of The de Young Museum, for the first time then, felt like standing next to a larger than life-sized Jawa Sandcrawler. That is a Star Wars reference there. It will make more sense if you Google it, if you need to Google it. Walking inside recently for a Museum Studies (go SFSU!) prerequisite class assignment was a little overwhelming; the grand scale of the interior made it difficult to focus on placards indicating where to go next, but easy to assume this is not an issue for the regular or even occasional visitor.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect at The de Young. Mission Statements can say a lot about a lot without really saying anything. The de Young’s Mission Statement was quite the opposite — with a single sentence backed by a formidable experience. More walk, less talk? I made a concerted effort to read the information available for each work that caught my eye. To carefully consider the artist’s intention, period of the work, and any other helpful context which was amply made available. Having recognized many of the objects on display in books or films for previous classes, I was excited to have a peek at a collection of our human experience captured in time. Exhibition spaces were devoid of bottlenecks but still a good idea to have a walk through in off peak hours if you want a better sense of the space’s volume. Displays with smaller items are rarely overcrowded. Exhibits with multiple subjects/objects are spaced in very appealing arrangements. Only complaint is that I did not ask where the elevators were to help me cover such a large interior space!
The Alice Neel exhibition was an interesting find but initially could not understand why these images felt so familiar. Reading more about her (Alice Neel) it was made clear her work represented places and culture in NYC I’d seen with my own eyes. This aided greatly to my interpretation of the work, how it was organized, each piece’s historical context; making them something more than the images already jumping out of the picture frame or off a handwritten page. While in the Alice Neel exhibit I was met by a museum guide/employee by the name of Lori. Lori played an instrumental part in my Alice Neel exhibit experience. Rather than trying to soak in all the imagery and reading text, Lori and I had a great conversation about Neel’s works, and times of the day. We also spoke about art in general — probably a good ten minute conversation on top of the oral history of Neel’s works. I give a lot of credit to my professors for making these kinds of conversations possible, and the placards for the exhibit were abundantly informative, but the conversation about Neel’s works just hit a little different. Glad I ran into Lori!