Our newest exhibition opening festivities are underway. I caught up with a visiting curator here for the installation. California Design: Living a Modern Way 1930-1965 comes to us, fittingly, from LACMA, where Bobbye Tigerman is Associate Curator of Decorative Arts and Design.
We sat in our Atrium on a dreary day in March, when New Englanders are so done with winter, we never want to see it again, and discussed, well, California.
“Ideally we would have included the weather in the loan contract,” Bobbye said with a smile, “but since we couldn’t, I think it will remind people of the possibilities of summer and warmth and take them away a little bit while they are in the show, like a little vacation.”
Speaking of vacation, the object that most captures the themes of this show, she says, is the 1936 Airstream Clipper.
“It has this aluminum body and it’s riveted and the technique to make it is derived from air travel technology. Then it’s an industrial technique that gets transformed to a more consumer application. It’s also a home on wheels and this is a show all about the modern home. This represents the openness of California, which is a cliche in a way, but also true.
The idea that a lot of people were drawn to California because of the perception of endless possibility and that the rules could be broken or bent and that they couldn’t realize their dreams in other places. You could take your airstream to the beach or the mountains or the desert and it became your home and it gave flexibility and freedom and that permeates the entire show.”
Of the various locations this exhibition has traveled to — Japan, New Zealand and Australia – Salem, Massachusetts certainly seems the most opposite, literally and culturally from California. The other venues are Pacific Rim and have this idea of the west that they share with LACMA. Plus the climates of New Zealand and Australia offer a sensibility shared with Southern California. But New England? In March?
Bobbye is actually FROM California. When pressed where exactly, she answers: “I’m a valley girl…totally.”
She adds: “What I think it means to be a true Californian is that you have to have chosen to move there. You have to have made that conscious choice to leave where you are because you have to think that what you can find in California is different. As a native, I don’t think I truly understand what California means. California is a dream and and it’s a fiction, but it’s a fiction that everyone buys into. And continues today. I talk to young designers who say they come for the space, the light. The informality and laid back quality of life is something that persists and that myth remains powerful today.”
California Design opens Saturday, March 29, with a full line-up of activities from 11 to 4. Both a 1936 Airstream and a 1964 Avanti are on view in the Atrium.