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23 March 2011 @ 08:33 pm
San Jose Quilt Museum  
I had a very productive day at the San Jose Quilt Museum. It's a small museum, located in downtown, that displays textile art. I had wandered in hoping to get information about possible internship possibilities, and the woman I talked to (in charge of coordinating the volunteers) was really open and helpful. It seems the museum doesn't have a standing intern program, but they are definitely able to work with willing students to create a position if the student's needs match with the Museum's. She gave me the name and e-mail address for one of the curators, who is planning the next round of shows, and told me that if I contacted the other woman quickly I might be able to do some assistance with the set-up for an upcoming Navajo textile exhibit. Very cool.

Although this is certainly a great opportunity, I don't know for sure if I'll contact the curator just yet. The Rosicrucian Museum is also looking for interns, and if I had a choice between the two internships I'd rather go to the Egyptian museum. But it's possible that I'll end up needing multiple internships by the time I'm done at SJSU, so it doesn't hurt to collect contacts now.

There were four shows currently on display at the museum today. The first gallery was filled with Maya huipil, which I've had a passing interest in ever since I took that History of Mesoamerican Art class at De Anza. There were some really lovely examples of current Maya embroidery and weaving, and it was really hard to resist touching the art since it was displayed out in the open, with no barrier. Looking at the bright colors - they seemed almost gaudy against the plain walls of the room - I enjoyed the blend of traditional Maya imagery with designs clearly taken from European patterns.

"Eden Re-imagined" was another exhibition on display. I didn't much care for it. Two gay men - partners - created self-referential textile art, often featuring themselves transposed into a traditional image like a depiction of St. Sebastian or kabuki-style warriors. A lot of their art glorified their pet dog, who is like a child to them. Together with the dog, they form a family...and as I looked at the massive quilt-like banners the two men create together, I was reminded of a family album. The trouble is, it's not always that interesting to see image galleries full of people you don't know, and I found myself bored by their art. On a technical level, I do admire their artistry. They have this fantastic embroidery technique that gives amazing texture and dimension to their pieces. I'm also impressed by the scale of their work. I just don't want to see a shrine to their dog. Sorry, Leo and Daniel.

The other major show the museum has up right now is "Earthly Paradise," a complex set of pieces by A Bee. They use a variety of techniques - screen printing, embroidery, quilting, and so on - to create these beautiful, intense tapestries. Repetition, symmetry and a variety of symbols appear in their art, tapping into the rather mythical feeling created by medieval tapestries. There was a universality to their art that appealed to me. I found it very accessible, but still complex that I could look at it for hours and still find something new each time.

The last show - which was pretty small, just several framed panels hanging in the hall - was called "Boy Code" and consisted of art drawn by adolescent boys, hung in the style of Tibetan altar banners. I'll be honest, I just glossed over these. It didn't really interest me. I get the idea behind it - the insecurities of the teenage boys was contrasted with a border created from cast-off ties, mens' suits and other sartorial symbols of "grown men." I just didn't care. (I hate the feeling that I have to check out everything in a museum, just because its' there. So what? I don't have to like or feign interest in something just because someone else thought it important enough to display.)

Most of these things will be on display until May 1st. I might go back to see the "Earthly Paradise" gallery again; it was really cool. The rest of it I could take or leave, but I'm really glad I went today, if for no other reason than to see just what qualifies as 'textile art' these days.