SJMA Explores Nature and Humanity in New Exhibition Opening August 18

Release date 
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Indestructible Wonder marks debut of new acquisition by Diana Thater and commission by Evan Holm. 

SAN JOSE, California (August 2, 2016)— The San Jose Museum of Art will explore the precarious relationship between nature and humanity in the exhibition Indestructible Wonder, on view August 18, 2016 – January 29, 2017. Drawn primarily from SJMA’s permanent collection, the exhibition includes works by artists who observe and reflect on the natural world as well as those who document humanity’s impact on the environment. 

“Contemporary artists have long been moved by a primal reverence for nature and thus also prompted to raise questions about our rampant impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems,” said Rory Padeken, associate curator at SJMA and curator of the exhibition.

Indestructible Wonder marks the debut of an important new work acquired by SJMA earlier this year: Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2) (2008) by Diana Thater. Thater, whose work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this spring, is known for her video installations of natural phenomena and endangered species. For Untitled (Butterfly Videowall #2), Thater filmed monarch butterflies as they rested on the ground at El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico, where millions of monarchs hibernate after their long migration from Canada. Due, in part, to the lack of foliage on the trees in which the butterflies normally take refuge, their only option was to gather together on the forest floor—an extremely vulnerable position. The footage of a single butterfly appears on five upturned monitors on the gallery floor. “Thater created a meditative experience through which to consider the lives of other creatures who share this planet,” said Padeken.

SJMA has commissioned Oakland artist Evan Holm to create a new work especially for the exhibition. WaterTable (2016) is a 24-foot long table made of manzanita branches and other materials. The table is filled with water, in which the stripped-down elements of an audiotape player are partially submerged. As the piece plays recorded instrumental music, the audiotape emerges from the surface of the water, runs the length of the table, and re-submerges in a continuous loop. Meanwhile, duckweed floats on the surface of the water in currents created by the turning spools. 

Other highlights include: Sage (1993), Anne Appleby’s minimalist ode to the lifecycle of a sage plant; photographer Edward Burtynsky’s images of oil fields in Belridge, California; the multi-media installation Center of Gravity (2008) by Gail Wight; and photographs from the series “Midway” by Chris Jordan, which depict the effects of ocean-borne plastics on seabirds. Works by Lisa Adams, Chester Arnold, Ruth Asawa, Sandow Birk, Val Britton, Amy Kaufman, Mayme Kratz, Danae Mattes, Richard Misrach, Judy Pfaff Nathan Redwood, Sam Richardson, Alyson Shotz, Kathryn Spence, and Kristen Stolle will also be on view.

Indestructible Wonder is sponsored by Doris and Alan Burgess and supported by a gift from Megan Hayes and Reed Zars, in memory of Janet Gray and Kenneth Hayes


An array of public programs are planned in conjunction with Indestructible Wonder, beginning with “Third Thursday: What’s New” on Thursday, August 18, from 5 to 8 PM. Activities will include tours and a DIY Art project for adults. Tickets are $5 (free to members). 

On Wednesday, September 7, at 12 noon, SJMA’s fall Lunchtime Lecture series will begin with a talk by Laura C. Rogers, president of the Environmental Humanities Project (EHP) at Stanford University, Palo Alto. Her topic will be “The Social and Environmental Turn in Late Twentieth-Century Art.” Lunchtime Lectures are included in Museum admission. 

Evan Holm will bring his performance piece Submerged Turntables to SJMA’s evening program ArtRage on Thursday, November 17, 7 – 10 PM. Tickets are $5 after 5 PM. 

The Lunchtime Lecture topic on Wednesday, December 7, at noon, will be “Monarch Butterflies...A Species of Wonder, a Species in Crisis.” The speaker will be Mia Monroe, a volunteer with the Xerces Society and local coordinator of the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. Lunchtime Lectures are included in Museum admission.

Further details and tickets to these and other public programs are available online at



The San Jose Museum of Art celebrates new ideas, stimulates creativity, and inspires connection with every visit. Welcoming and thought-provoking, the Museum rejects stuffiness and delights visitors with its surprising and playful perspective on the art and artists of our time. SJMA is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San Jose, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM and until 8 PM or later on the third Thursday of each month. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for students, and $5 for youth ages 7 -18. Members and children For more information, call 408-271-6840 or visit

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Programs at the San Jose Museum of Art are made possible be generous support from The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, The Lipman Family Foundation, and a Cultural Affairs Grant from the City of San José.