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This isn’t the Timken Museum of Art’s first foray into contemporary art, but it might be its best yet.
In June, the Balboa Park museum hosted its inaugural artist residency. San Diego artist Bhavna Mehta spent weeks working inside the Timken’s rotunda, creating a large-scale sculpture made of paper.
The installation is stunning. Inspired by the Timken’s “Portrait of a Lady” painting by Bartolomeo Veneto, Mehta’s “Leela: Portrait Of A Woman in A Green Dress” sculpture –up through Sept. 16– turns the face of Veneto’s painted woman from white to brown, and also brings her to life by depicting her inner thoughts and dreams as objects buzzing around her head.
The Timken is not known as a home for new work by living artists. Its reputation comes from its collection of 14th- through 19th-century masterworks by artists like Rembrandt.
The museum has hosted annual art programs that invite artists to activate the galleries. And former museum director and curator John Wilson once brought in an edgy, contemporary video portrait show. But mostly the Timken never strays too far from its core mission of showing historic artwork and offering free admission.
Megan Pogue, Timken’s executive director, said Mehta’s residency isn’t a complete detour from that mission. She said it’s the continuation of a new program that plays off the modernist building housing the Timken. Some folks hate the building and say it doesn’t fit into the park, but architecture fans from across the world often visit the park just to see its sharp lines, white marble and bronze.
Launched last year, Pogue said the program works to attract those architecture fans by using the Timken’s old master collection as inspiration for new architecture and design exhibitions displayed in the museum’s rotunda.
“These installations remain in our central ‘public’ area, not within the galleries themselves,” Pogue wrote in an email. “So traditionally-minded visitors can continue to enjoy the Timken experience they’ve always known, while we add new and progressive elements to keep the collection current and relevant.”
Mehta said she’s excited to be one of the first local artists to take part in the new program.
“At first, I was like, how do I fit in this museum since it’s so traditional and Euro-centric?” Mehta said. “But from my first meeting, when they asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ and ‘How can we support you?’ I knew this was something I wanted to do.”
The Timken has seen an uptick in attendance since Mehta’s residency started, Pogue said. And the feedback from the museum’s board, visitors and volunteer docents has been positive.
“Bhavna has opened up our museum to many new communities,” Pogue said. “A lot of local arists, for example, have been visiting, which is new for us. … It’s really being very well received, especially when you consider that you’re dealing with a a traditional organization that’s been pretty stagnant for over 50 years.”
You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.
• Nathan Fletcher, who’s running for county supervisor, announced his plan to create a new regional film office to help attract film-makers to San Diego. San Diego’s Film Commission closed in 2013, and Fletcher’s not the first politician to announce plans for the office’s reboot.
• Comic-Con is underway. Here’s my mini guide to Comic-Con guides: The Verge has a good roundup of the best panels this year, and KPBS’s guide is helpful for those with and without an official badge. The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog says the coolest place to be this year may be the free event happening at the Petco parking lot. And every year Barrio Logan holds Chicano-Con, a free event that spotlights Chicano artists.
• Movers and shakers in the local theater scene recently met to talk about race, representation and other important issues related to the performing arts in San Diego. (Union-Tribune)
• A developer says he wants to turn nearly nine acres of vacant land in San Marcos into a new project geared toward artists, makers and craft brewers and distillers. (The Coast News Group)
• Jennifer G. Spencer’s new book, “The Artist Portrait Project: A Photographic Memoir of Portraits Sessions with San Diego Artists, 2006-2016,” documents 50 San Diego artists. The author will be signing and talking about the book at Warwick’s on Thursday. (CityBeat)
• San Diego is one of many cities participating in “Big Sing California” on Saturday. More than 10,000 singers across the state are attempting to put on the biggest choral event in California history.
• The San Diego Natural History Museum is opening a new exhibit space geared toward babies and toddlers.
• I’ve always been curious about the goings-on in this colorful building in City Heights. (CityBeat)
• The Carlsbad City Council approved a new arts and culture master plan.
• The Union-Tribune’s theater critic calls the West Coast premiere of “Queens” at La Jolla Playhouse an “emotional wallop,” that’s “quietly arresting” and “a marvel of ensemble acting.”
• A musical, binational peace march is happening in San Diego and Tijuana on Saturday.
• An Escondido fiber artist has a show opening at Visions Art Museum in Liberty Station Saturday. (Union-Tribune)
• San Diego artist Marianela de la Hoz has an exhibition showing at Tijuana’s CECUT. (Zeta)
• I’ll be checking out the Comic-Con happenings and costumes outside the Convention Center this week along with everyone else. Our big Comic-Con event this year: taking our kids to see the Aquabats.
• It’s your chance to finally see the world’s only all-green green-screen improv talk show. Some talented San Diego artists are involved.
• Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch is getting into the nut butter game. (San Diego Magazine)
• Nomad Donuts expanded. (Eater)
• The long-empty commercial space at the foot of the Mercado del Barrio project in Barrio Logan is finally filling up.
• Here’s where you can eat vegetarian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Union-Tribune)
Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with arts and culture news and tips, or submit your question about San Diego arts and culture here. Want to recommend the Culture Report to someone? Share this sign-up link. Subscribe to Voice of San Diego podcasts.