I collected this set of images during two separate visits to two different museums: Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum (September 2019) and San Francisco’s deYoung Museum (August 2022). The artists and the media may be widely varied, but each one speaks to me in a profound way, and the more I consider them, the more connections I seem to discover.
Al Qoyawayma is a Hopi artist (and mechanical engineer) who works with both pottery and bronze. The piece above, part of his Mesa Verde series, strongly brings to mind some of the beautiful landscapes I saw while traveling through northern Arizona and New Mexico less than a month before my trip to San Francisco.
Above and below, detail from The Three Disgraces (Folly, Ignorance, and Superstition), 1933, by American artist Perham Wilhelm-Nahl (1869-1935) and created from redwood burl wood.
This amazing piece, Mother, Springhouse (Oakland Plantation Series), 2005, by Richard Cleaver, was so intricate and full of fascinating details that I spent quite a long while gazing at it. Its materials include ceramic, wood, freshwater pearls, garnets, glass crystals, bronze wire, metal, gold leaf, and oil paint.
Cleaver lives on the grounds of the former Oakland Plantation in Baltimore. Mother, Springhouse was inspired by the intertwined histories of the plantation’s owners and its enslaved African American workers. At the base of the sculpture is a model of the Spring House, a neoclassical building designed as the plantation’s food storehouse by the famous architect Benjamin Latrobe (1764-1820).
The Madonna-like central figure represents an enslaved nursemaid whom Cleaver imagined might have lived on the Oakland Plantation. She holds a white child (probably the son of the plantation owner) whose mask-like face opens to reveal an African American child (likely the nursemaid’s own). Dogs, often used to track runaway slaves, snarl at the nursemaid’s feet, while the twin white girls flanking her hold threatening wood switches. Raised a Catholic and influenced by the sacred rituals and reliquaries he observed as a child, Cleaver’s iconlike work glows with an aura of commemoration and reverence — deYoung Museum information card
Automotive-Age Man: Self Sacrifice I (1994), Ronald Garrigues (1930-2020)
…most recognized for his iconic bronze skulls begun in 1989 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill catastrophe …Garrigues is an early artist of the Anthropocene Movement which looks at the intersection of humankind and the environment. The core of Garrigues’ message is that our disrespect for the forces of nature will lead to disaster — Artist biography