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This spring, take a short drive to Sacramento to explore the Crocker Art Museum

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Posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 8:21 am

When you think of prominent art museums, you might imagine the Getty in Los Angeles, the array of Smithsonians in D.C. or the de Young in San Francisco. But the 2010-remodeled Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento — with its combination of Victorian and contemporary architecture — is Sacramento’s gem. It is home to the largest display of California art in the world, according to chief curator Scott Shields.

The Crocker’s three floors feature collections of California art, as well as master drawings, a comprehensive collection of international ceramics and European, Asian, African and Oceanic art.

Robin Koltenuk, marketing manager of the museum, says the museum makes people proud to live in the area.

“There is a real sense of pride here in Sacramento,” Koltenuk said. “There is something here for everybody.”

The first floor of the Crocker Art museum is home to the bookstore, cafe and dining area, art conservation lab and student and community art galleries. The second and third floors are broken up into permanent and rotating exhibits that showcase works from the oldest piece — a 2600-2000 BCE pot — to the Gold Rush and contemporary art.

The original Crocker mansion is kept intact with its old-world essence and unique character, from wooden walls with ornate details, tile-lined ceilings and a floor that looks like a cement quilt. The older section is home to European paintings, a history room on the Crocker family and the exhibits like “White Gold: The Kathy and Ronald Gillmeister Collection of Early Meissen Porcelain,” which is kept largely in original built-in glass bookshelves.

At the top of the double staircase are the two paintings by Charles Christian Nahl titled “Sunday Morning in the Mine” and “The Fandango.”

They are the only two paintings which didn’t get moved during the renovation two years ago. “Sunday Morning” is a popular painting as it depicts the Gold Rush theme through oil on canvas. It is divided into two equal halves on one canvas, contrasting well and ill-behaved miners.

Opposite from that is “The Fandango,” which is reminiscent of life on a ranch in California after Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821.

At the Crocker, there are several paintings that are famous and prolific enough that they draw visitors who want to view a single piece of art.

One such piece is Stephen J. Kaltenbach’s photorealist painting, “Portrait of My Father.” He spent seven years creating the giant portrait of his ill father.

It is his testament to life, love and loss.

Thomas Hill’s painting, “The Great Canyon of the Sierra” draws people in a similar way. It is the second of two monumental Yosemite paintings he created.

The museum is a destination for those with an array of interests. On Thursday, the museum is open until 9 p.m., and they feature films, music and more.


You don’t want to miss the history, art in these exhibits

‘Site 2801’

Artist: Gong Yuebin


In the dimly lit ballroom of the Crocker Art Museum, there are 210 stone-faced soldiers from the future. The room is usually quiet, and the scene is surprisingly eerie.

The statues are part of Gong Yuebin’s conceptual installation of terra cotta warriors that invites viewers to become archaelogists of the future by confronting humanity’s past and present.

About the exhibit: Yuebin’s warriors are based on models of those commissioned by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, and are displayed rank by rank, having been “unearthed” in a site that not only includes historical warriors, but additional modern combat troops and nuclear missiles. Inherent in the display is the artist’s consternation about the apparent lack of progress in thousands of years of human evolution and empire building. Newborn infants that lie within the missiles offer small indications of hope. Yuebin therefore asks that we consider our behavior from the perspective of our children’s children.

‘The Scenic Journey’

Artist: Edgar Payne


The way you fall in love with Edgar Payne is to become a part of his journey. As you wandered the exhibit highlighting his life from 1883 to 1947, you can begin to understand his quest to convey the “unspeakably sublime” in his art. His journey that he documented with paint allowed him to cover 100,000 miles in Europe and the United States.

About the exhibit: Payne is known as one of the most gifted of California’s early plein-air artists. Nearly 100 paintings and drawings are featured, as well as photographs and objects from his studio.

Payne used the animated brushwork, vibrant palette and shimmering light of Impressionism, but his powerful imagery was unique among artists of his generation. While his contemporaries favored a quieter, more idyllic representation of the natural landscape, Payne was devoted to subjects of rugged beauty. His majestic, vital landscapes are informed by his reverence for the natural world. This exhibition traces Payne’s artistic development as he traveled the world in search of magnificent settings: the Southern and Central California coast, the Sierra, the Swiss Alps, the harbors and waterways of France and Italy, and the desert Southwest.

‘Surveying Judy Chicago: 1970-2010’


In collections like “The Dinner Party” to the “Birth Project,” Judy Chicago’s work is raw and honest. It will make you question what you think, and you may not want to admit that you are intrigued by her words and the ideas she presents.

The exhibit: Chicago’s convention-shattering approach to provocative themes and diverse media is explored in an exhibit of 29 works.

Chicago has continuously brought her passion for social dialogue and artistry to many issues. She has made innovative use of both traditional and non-traditional media in works that highlight her conceptual and graphic talents, from lithographs to drawings, watercolors and mixed-media paintings.

Chicago became a seminal figure in American art during the 1970s. She and others of her generation made thought-provoking works of art that challenged widespread prejudices based on gender in art education.

Contact Lodi Living editor Lauren Nelson at



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