LACMA, the Treasure of the (Southern) Sierra Madre

lacmahorseOn Sunday, I took a bus from my new home in Marin County to San Francisco International.  I was not on my way to Armenia or Guatemala. Yet.

 I was flying to Los Angeles for a conference related to work (work!).  Wearing black pumps and wool pants gave me better posture but didn’t fool the drifter in me.  When I arrived at the airport, a feeling of wanderlust and longing overwhelmed me. As much as I love my home and the people in my Bay Area life, if I’d taken my passport and an extra bottle of contact lens solution, I would have hopped the first flight to far away.

The conference was great (nice going Shawn!) and I had most of the next day to explore downtown Los Angeles.  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was halfway between my hotel and the airport so it was a logical place to spend some time before the flight that wasn’t going to take me to far away places.


Seen on the bus from Bunker HIll to LACMA. I love this photo even if it does have window glare. The arrow, the stunted palm tree, the real and painted people, the swap meet sign. It all adds up to something.

Oh wow, LACMA is amazing!  It has something, actually a lot of somethings, for everyone — depth and breadth, curated for every age group and interest, places for reflection and places for involvement.

The expansive grounds and architecture are as much a part of the experience as the exhibits inside.


“Urban Light” is an installation of 202 vintage street lights, which was a perfect transition from my conference on community energy.


Parts of the walk ways reminded me of the torii gates in Kyoto.


Even the quiet tucked-away spots are full of poetry.

As much as I love museums, I usually leave after a couple of hours because my head starts spinning.  But I was at LACMA for almost 6 hours and I would have stayed longer if only my flight had been delayed.  The reason I could stay so long at LACMA?  It has installations that are intense and compelling, and also many ways to enjoy the art in a more relaxed, playful way so you can recover from the intensity before you go back to it.

Intense and compelling 

The Japan Pavilion had an exhibit of raku tea bowls.  You are probably thinking “booooring” but no, we are talking about Japan here with all of its layers of symbolism and precision and love of nature.  Raku tea bowls are a part of the elaborate and almost metaphysical Japanese tea ceremony. Artists in Kyoto study for many years to learn the traditional raku ceramic techniques, which have evolved for 500 years and which each artist seeks to personalize.


These rice paper screens line the tea bowl exhibit and provide a special kind of light and feeling. LACMA curators pay a lot of attention to the whole environment of an exhibit.


The tea bowls are made to touch with hands and lips, which is evident in their shapes and textures, and makes them all the more mysterious sitting behind plexiglass three feet away.


Managing the process of firing the bowls in the raku kiln requires the work of several experts.


Looking at these bowls, you initially think “oh I could make that.” But when you learn what goes into them, you think “oh wow, I could never do that.”

LACMA also has an exhibit of current Islamic art, which is definitely intense.  This is a photo taken at an actual graduation ceremony for women who joined the Tehran police force. They are scaling a wall to demonstrate their skills. The multiple messages are a little mind-boggling.


This photo is part of a video of the artist’s mother in the shower, overlaid with the Arabic text of letters written to her daughter during their separation as Palestinian refugees.  The text of the letters is lovingly read in English.


Relaxed and playful — When you need a break from emotional and intellectual intensity, there are galleries where you can find art that is full of joy and light.  You can watch delighted children run through noodle mazes or hang out with Calder’s “Hello Girls” in the peaceful sculpture garden or grab a super good lunch at the food trucks across the street.IMG_0665

4x5 original

David Hockney loved living in Los Angeles and shared his joy in this painting of his daily drive from home to his studio.



So far the truck owner has had no problems with law suits for copyright infringement. I loved his Vietnamese specialties.

I hate to announce favorites but LACMA is certainly high on my list of best museums I have ever visited!


  1. I want to invite you to take a trip to the Sawtooth Wilderness area with us, do a float trip on the Payette River, celebrate our anniversary and then attempt to capture your experience in the appropriate words. Might be challenging but I am sure you are up to the task! XOXOXO

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