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UC Merced exhibit showcases Central Valley culture

UC Merced exhibit showcases Central Valley culture

Kacy Marume, who graduated from UC Merced in May, spent her senior year processing artifacts in the Wilma McDaniel archive. She has returned as the student curator for the exhibit since she is so i...

POSTED September 15, 2009 11:26 p.m.
From the stark, yet moving, photos of renowned photographer Dorothea Lange to the prolific works of poet Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, the newest exhibits at the UC Merced campus are celebrating the cultural contributions of the Central Valley.
The UC Merced Library and the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts have brought together several art and literature exhibits and events for the “Celebrating the Central Valley” series.
“‘Celebrating the Central Valley’ is part of the goal of UC Merced to recognize the cultural production of the Central Valley,” said Jan Goggans, assistant professor of literature. “We write here in the Central Valley, and we take photographs and we paint just as they do in major cities like San Francisco and New York. It just hasn’t been as widely known. Having a research university here creates an opportunity for people to realize there’s stuff going on here — there has been for a long time.”
The series is featuring McDaniel’s  poetry and personal artifacts; and art exhibit of “From Hobos to Street People: Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to Present;” and the works of Stephen Johnson, the acclaimed local photographer.
The second floor of the university’s library is the stage for “From Hobos to Street People: Artists Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to Present,” an art exhibit that includes vivid and varied visual interpretations of poverty and homelessness in California across the past eight decades. The exhibit pulls together the works of 30 artists and uses a mix of mediums. Featured artists include: Dorothea Lange, Rockwell Kent, Giacomo Patri, Francisco Dominguez, Jane “in vain” Winckelman, Sandow Birk, Art Hazelwood and the San Francisco Print Collective. The exhibit is on display and runs through Oct. 25.
One floor up from the art show is the “Okie Poet Laureate: Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel,” exhibit.
McDaniel gained a reputation as a prolific poet who chronicled the experiences of the Dust Bowl in the Central Valley. Born in Oklahoma in 1918, McDaniel and her family made the pilgrimage West when the dust storms left their land barren. Eventually settling in the Central Valley, McDaniel spent many seasons harvesting crops and the experience left an undeniable mark upon her writings.
“If John Steinbeck is the male voice of the Dust Bowl, then Wilma McDaniel is the female voice, telling the stories of women in the Dust Bowl,” Goggans said.
McDaniel died in 2007 in Tulare.
The pieces featured in “Okie Poet Laureate” were hand-selected to represent different elements of McDaniel’s career.
“She had various ways of translating her experiences into different forms of media; sometimes art, sometimes short stories, sometimes poetry,” said Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay.
The archives are not yet open to the public, but some of the pieces will be on display.
The Wilma McDaniel exhibit runs through Dec. 19 and, along with the rest of the events and exhibits, is open to the public.
To complement the exhibit, the university is hosting “A Celebration of the Life and Work of Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel featuring Central Valley writer Gerald Haslam.” Haslam wrote “The Great Central Valley,” and his expertise regarding the Valley has earned him the nickname of “Mr. Central Valley.” Haslam will present a lecture on McDaniel and her works from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight in Room 355 of the library. A reception will follow.
Rounding out the Central Valley exhibit is the photographic works of Johnson, an acclaimed local photographer whose works are also featured in the library. Guests and visitors are invited to attend his illustrated talk “An Artist and the Land: Stephen Johnson and the Great Central Valley” plus a special walk-through of the Great Central Valley Exhibit from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, with a reception to follow.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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