Thursday, September 20, 2012


Usually, you go to a museum to view capital-A Art. The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History democratizes the whole process in its current exhibit, Santa Cruz Collects, wherein ordinary local folk like you and me are invited to show off their personal collections of stuff.

Got a thing for shoes? Check out the vintage footwear from all eras collected by Judy Steen, research librarian and aficionado of historical costume.  The variety of shoes in so small a space is amazing! These are downstairs in the Atrium, fetchingly displayed in this wonderful cabinet painted by Watsonville artist Carol Bowie.

Other collected objects include the humble—Lance Linares' bottle caps, Bruce Bratton's international toothpaste boxes and tubes, and Stacy Grant's (I kid you not) dryer lint. Some are formed around domestic objects, like Nita Gizdich's garden gnomes, or Dusty and Craig Miller's fantastic display of vintage toasters.

Others qualify as found art, like Daymel Shklar's aquarium tank full of sea glass, or the crushed metal forms  culled, again, by Grant. (She has seven different oddball, yet strangely compelling collections on display, including a wall full of multicolored beach sand in tiny vials, as varied as seeds or spices.)

And some collections are plain weird. (My favorite category!)  Assemblage artist Jack Howe shows a vast array of the found junk he uses in his work, ingeniously  displayed in three twin bed-sized boxsprings, their rusting coils a perfect network of cubbyholes. Local veterinarian Dr. David Shuman displays his collection of bleached animal skulls, gorgeously mounted in the corner of the Solari Gallery, under the skylight. Dr. Bruce Damer presents a tower of quaintly clunky vintage computers that seem to date from the Flintstone era.

Here's one of my favorite collections in the show. These are electric drills from all eras collected by woodworker Sandor Nagyszalanczy, a craftsman who has published many books on woodworking, tools and home projects.

Normally, I would never look twice at a drill, but look how strikingly these are displayed, like so many Buck Rogers ray guns!

Some are sleek, chrome Art Deco models, others more of the Rube Goldberg variety, but all are endlessly fascinating. (I'm sure Nagyszalanczy must have built this giant wooden mandala of a display board, too.)

Be sure to click on the image and see them in more detail!

I was also drawn to this grouping of Native American "baby baskets." The collector is Dean Silvers, a longtime Santa Cruz  elementary school teacher and self-taught historian. He is also an avid collector of California Indian baskets, Latin American crafts, and Native North American art.

I did a lot of research on Native American baby-carrying devices for my first novel, The Witch From the Sea. In the northeast, among the Iroquois (the heritage of my fictional heroine), they were carved out of wood and called "cradleboards." Most of my tribal research for The Witch ended up on the cutting room floor, but if you're interested, I've posted more info on cradleboards on my Witch website.

I assume these are all California Indian basket cradles, and possibly reproductions of vintage designs. (Maybe the tiniest ones are for dolls?) Look at the intricate workmanship on these pieces. There is nothing like seeing  such beautiful artifacts in person to make history come alive!

Santa Cruz Collects is up and running at the MAH through November 25.

No comments:

Post a Comment