Message from the Director

Art and the humanities are under attack in Washington, DC. A new president has called for the elimination of funding agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts. Our mission and focus and our bold programming make the San Jose Museum of Art especially important at this time. We tackle topics that illuminate the diversity on which this country’s greatness stands and—in this confluence of beauty and truth, hardship and wonder—this Museum inspires our visitors to think, to know our better selves, and to fight back.

Government funding plays a major role in the support of “diverse and excellent art” at SJMA and across the country. We sent a letter about this to our members and we thank you for your powerful responses to this call for action.

Your positive embrace of “The Water Projects,” a trio of exhibitions that ask visitors to ponder the precious role of water on our planet, has been gratifying and heartening. In addition to Fragile Waters: Photographs by Ansel Adams, Ernest H. Brooks II, and Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, we present The Darkened Mirror: Global Perspectives on Water. In this latter exhibition, curator Lauren Schell Dickens features work by artists who “come from twenty-first-century points of view and reveal an essential resource that is no longer merely threatened, but actively besieged; presenting a troubling reflection of the contemporary moment.” Diana Al-Hadid enlivens SJMA’s central skylight gallery like a fountain in a Roman piazza with her monumental sculpture Nolli’s Orders (2012). Born in Aleppo, Al-Hadid moved to Ohio when she was five. The irony of installing her work precisely when the US travel ban was enacted against Syrians strikes a strong chord. San Francisco artist Victor Cartagena’s Beta Space project reminds us of the laborers who bring our food to the table. This commissioned, new work by the El Salvador-born artist includes Burrocracia (2016), an eighty-foot mural that evokes the bureaucratic upheaval migrant farm workers and immigrants face in America.

In late August, we shift gears and open the exhibition This Is Not a Selfie: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, SJMA’s first collaboration with Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Springing from a recent essay by photography historian and curator Deborah Irmas, the exhibition mines the history of the photographic selfportrait beginning with Nadar (1863) and moving through the decades into the age of the selfie. Sixty-eight photographs by artists such as Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Yves Klein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Cindy Sherman, and Andy Warhol leap into late summer and fall.

It is an exciting and challenging time for the San Jose Museum of Art, and I am energized and honored to take the helm as executive director of this extraordinary organization. Come join us and see yourself at SJMA.

S. Sayre Batton
Oshman Executive Director