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Focusing the Artistic Lens on Homelessness

All four exhibitions at the de Saisset Museum this fall focus on artists’ depictions of homelessness over the last 80 years, deftly combining the museum’s mission of providing historical and contemporary perspectives through art with the University’s emphasis on social justice.

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Mother and Child, Dorothea Lange
Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present, a traveling exhibition from Exhibit Envoy, explores the homeless themselves as well as the government’s evolving response to their plight. “There are a lot of similarities in terms of the images between art from the ’30’s and art from today in the way that the artists are portraying displaced people, whether the term of the day was ‘hobos’ or ‘street people’ or ‘homeless,’” says Lindsey Kouvaris, curator of exhibits and collections for the museum.

The de Saisset invited the curator of the Envoy show, Art Hazelwood, to create a complementary exhibition for the museum’s auditorium space as well. Between Struggle and Hope: Envisioning a Democratic Art in the 1930’s draws heavily on New Deal works in the de Saisset’s own collection, but also brings together photographs, prints, and murals from other area collectors. The powerful photography of Dorothea Lange, one of the artists employed by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in the ’30s to document the lives of farmers and the work of the FSA, captures the nobility of people living in poverty. The juxtaposition of her images with works by other Depression-era artists evokes a rich diversity of emotion. “Between Struggle and Hope examines not only the challenges at the time, but also that sense of hopefulness, that people were going to make it through,” Kouvaris says.

In This Camera Fights Fascism, also curated by Hazelwood, photographers David Bacon and Francisco Dominguez respond to iconic photos by Lange with pictures of their own, creating a captivating connection between the New Deal era and today. Side-by-side comparisons will be viewable at the museum as well as online.

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Indigenous Woman, David Bacon


Completing the quartet of exhibitions is The Changing Face of Homelessness, works by Santa Clara students from Renee Billingslea’s class “Exploring Society through Photography.” From 2006-11, students visited local homeless shelters, hosting a free portrait day for families. Some of those photos, accompanied by entries from the students’ journals at the time, create a positive view of homelessness, focusing on the similarities between subject and photographer.

The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, closed Mondays. No charge for admission. For special programs, closing dates, and more information, visit www.scu.edu/desaisset.