Art, Design and Architecture Museum, UC Santa Barbara, September 16th – December 8th, 2017
Santa Barbara Historical Museum, September 14th, 2017 – January 1st, 2018
This exhibition will bring together for the first time a diverse array of 70 objects from Santa Barbara area collections, many of which have never been displayed, with the goal of providing a comprehensive study of the relationship between art and religion in both Chumash and Spanish Catholic traditions. Highlighting themes of devotion, sacred space, language and materiality, our exhibition investigates the mutually transformative interaction among these traditions, and will draw implications for the ways in which we can understand the cultural dynamics of Santa Barbara County today.
Interwoven throughout Sacred Art are the concepts of persistence and resistance, which shaped the works created by Chumash artists and craftspeople in the Mission era. For instance, through the theme of sacred space, we will investigate the ways in which Chumash artists used imagery to create spiritual environments during the colonial period, both through the continuation of traditional practice, such as the creation of petroglyphs, and through the decoration of new types of spaces, like the interior of mission churches. The rich variety of the exhibition’s objects also reveals the complex importance of materials for Chumash craftspeople in a sacred context, such as inclusion of abalone shell in the creation of devotional Catholic images. Twentieth-century and contemporary Chumash visual production will be exhibited alongside these sacred objects, demonstrating the continuity of the culture’s rich artistic practices. Sacred Art will provide an unprecedented point of entry into the artistic and cultural production of Chumash artists working within and alongside the Mission system—a story that has not yet been told on this scale in Santa Barbara County.
Sacred Art is an official participant of the larger Getty initiative, Pacific Standard Time LA/LA (Los Angeles/Latin America). This initiative is a collaboration of numerous arts institutions in California, and explores the historical relationship between Latin America and the greater Los Angeles area through a series of thematically linked exhibitions. Under this initiative, The Santa Barbara Historical Museum will host Sacred Art in partnership with the Art, Architecture and Design Museum at UC Santa Barbara. This collaboration will allow for a beneficial exchange between the Historical Museum, which contains unique and comprehensive collections pertaining to local history, and the AD&A Museum, whose exhibitions are grounded in the educational opportunities available through the University. The Historical Museum also hopes that this exhibition will lead to extensive collaboration with the Chumash Indians Education Department to develop rich programming that will enhance knowledge of historical and contemporary Chumash artistic production throughout Santa Barbara County. Through Sacred Art and its related programming, we anticipate that new connections will be drawn between the communities of UC Santa Barbara and the Historical Museum, as well as among the local collections that it will exhibit, which include Missions Santa Barbara, La Purisima, and Ines, as well as the Natural History Museum of Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, the AD&A Museum, and the Department of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara.
Sacred Art in the Age of Contact is curated by Maggie Bell and Diva Zumaya, Ph.D. Candidates in the History of Art and Architecture at UC Santa Barbara. In the development of the exhibition, they have worked with graduate students from the AIIC (American Indian and Indigenous Collective) on campus, Chumash community members, and faculty from diverse disciplines and institutions through regular meetings. Key members of this group, Prof. Ann Taves (Religious Studies, UCSB) and Prof. Lisbeth Haas (History and Feminist Studies, UC Santa Cruz), as well as Chumash sociologist Prof. Jonathan Cordero (Sociology, Cal Lutheran University) will contribute to the exhibition’s catalogue, alongside five thematic essays by graduate students from the History of Art. In addition, Prof. Candace Wade (English, UCSB) and Prof. Ines Talamantez (Religious Studies, UCSB), scholars specializing in indigenous literature and ritual practices, have advised the exhibition’s research.
Prof. Ann Taves and the exhibition’s co-curator, Diva Zumaya, with assistance from Margaret McMurtrey, a graduate student in Religious Studies and student leader of the AIIC, will team-teach a course built around the study of objects in the exhibition in Fall Quarter 2017. The course will approach the objects from multiple disciplinary perspectives drawing upon the expertise of contributors to the exhibit catalogue. The goal will be to help students understand the objects as material, devotional, and (exhibited) art objects created for and embedded in different practices and settings over time from the colonial era to the present. The course will thus include not only historical perspectives on the colonial era, but also contemporary indigenous, Catholic, and curatorial perspectives.