The Oakland Museum was jam packed yesterday for the Días de los Muertos Community Celebration. I like how the Oakland Museum is able to loosen up and create a space like this where entry to the grounds and some great exhibitions was completely free and open to the public while the awesome temporary exhibitions was discounted to half off. The best part? The community taking advantage of that generosity and coming out in great numbers.
I wish I could have taken pics of the Evolution of a Sacred Space exhibit which has some amazing altars celebrating the spirits of women artists who have passed on with a figure of La Muerte in an amazing ball gown surrounded by the hand written names of past sister artists. A little girl on seeing the display yelled out, “I see Emily Dickinson!” as I’m looking at this brilliant depiction of death.
Another altar combined leather, suede, and horsehair to capture the ascension of a father lost to sea. Another one honored a friend lost in a mountain climbing expedition, the body was never found but a sculpture takes that place dangling on a gurney, wrapped in climbing ropes, with maps for skin, to help finish the climb. A jarring display of silhouettes honored the women taken away by domestic violence. The grandest altar showed the intersections of Mexican and Chinese traditions for the dead.
On the flip side, local high school students put the symbols of their lives on display with personal totems to celebrate their identity. This is the second display at the Museum I’ve seen that highlights Oakland teen arts in a manner that doesn’t talk down youth experience in that bullshit “This is SO cute that kids are doing this” tone but really pushes the artists to make museum quality art.
I’ll be sure to hit the museum up again soon to also soak more in from the LA Paint exhibit that was equal parts challenging (the faux-naive work of Esther Pearl Watson), outrageous (the psycho comix stylings of Robert Williams), disappointing (I really wanted to like Loren Holland’s work but couldn’t), and deeply satisfying (I love the installations from the Date Farmers!).