Wednesday, February 23, 2011


"The Bay area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I'm here." 
- Billy Graham

I think this is one time Billy Graham got it right.  Bob and I just spent President's Day weekend in San Francisco, a city we haven't been to since I was pregnant with Rachael more than thirty years ago.  Bob's brother lives just outside the city, and we decided we had lived in California too long not to have made the trip north to visit him.
Southern and Northern Californians don't really claim each other.  There have been many semi-serious movements to split the state into North and South, kind of like the Dakotas or the Carolinas.  In truth, there could hardly be two places more different than Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the animosity is real.  About the only thing we share is the San Andreas Fault.

Nevertheless, we Southerners decided to take advantage of a cheap flight and a long weekend.  We left our home on Saturday at 4:00 AM to catch a 7:30 flight out of Lovely LAX . . .

 . . . and before we knew it, we were swooping down over some of the most beautiful scenery in the USA.

Suddenly, all our prejudices evaporated, and we had to agree with John Lennon: "Los Angeles? That's just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for the trip to San Francisco."

It was a rainy day (not all that unusual, we hear), so we decided to spend the first of our three days in museums. Andrew, who spent a summer as art gallery intern in the Bay area a few years ago, had suggested some sites to see, so we followed his recommendation and headed for the DeYoung Art Museum in Golden Gate Park. It was a great way to start the trip--surrounded by culture and class.  Even the food in the museum restaurant was several levels above the average restaurant. 

The DeYoung Museum, first built in 1895, was badly damaged in the 1906 earthquake, demolished and rebuilt, and damaged again by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  This latest version, completed in 2005, was built so that it can move up to THREE FEET on special plates during the next Big One.  It houses a huge collection of primarily American art, spanning 1670 to the present day.  We thought the displays were exceptionally done, many having excellent explanatory placards to help Art Dunces like the two of us.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Anti-Mass (2005) by Cornelia Parker.  Constructed from the charred remains of an African-American Baptist church in Alabama that was destroyed by arsonists.

Look carefully at this next sculpture of a cathedral:
The Spine and Tooth of Santo Guerro (2007) by Al Farrow

 It is constructed from gun parts, bullets, and shot pellets and is a commentary on the historical connection between religious intolerance and warfare:

Yes, that is a human spine and tooth in the nave.

Three Machines (1963) by Wayne Thiebaud.  (I'm a big Thiebaud fan.  He paints things like pastries and lollipops and does interesting things with perspective.)
An example of the excellent plaques that really enhanced our enjoyment of the museum.

I love this fireplace from the home of the former Governor of California, Milton Latham.  All we would need is the house to go with it:
Mantle for Thurlow Lodge in Menlo Park, California (c. 1872) by Gustave and Christian Herter

Detail from the mantle
Along with these pieces, there were paintings by John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Maynard Dixon, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Jasper Johns, Albert Bierstadt, and many other famous artists, photos by Ansel Adams (and one by his son of Live Oak Canyon just outside of Redlands), 800 sculptures, and a huge display of Mesoamerican artifacts.  We were surprised at the scope of the collection, and (to be honest) by our enjoyment of it.  Who knew there was such a great art museum in San Francisco?

We spent the second half of the day in the California Academy of Sciences, a brand new $500 million museum that boasts of its "sustainable architecture" (it is phrases like that which make Southern Californians' skin crawl) and multiple venues, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, a four-story rainforest, and other assorted delights.  It is handily located across the street from the DeYoung Art Museum.

There are fun dinosaur skeletons. (Not Bob--that thing behind him.)
Interesting architecture

A snow machine for the kiddies

A huge aquarium area with all kinds of bizarre stuff. (Again, not Bob, but the flora and fauna behind him.)

A beautiful rain forest full of butterflies and birds

Interesting exhibits about evolution

Beautiful displays of various animals

If you have a trip planned to San Francisco any time soon, be sure to put these two museums on your list, and make sure you eat lunch in the DeYoung restaurant.  My only complaint is that the California Academy of Sciences cost a whopping $35 a ticket.  The DeYoung Art Museum, in comparison, was a bargain at $10.


  1. Great pictures...I love that Cornelia Parker sculpture too!

  2. I, 100%, agree with going to both. We happened to be there the opening weekend of the California Academy of Sciences and were thrilled with it, high cost and all. But for $35, you get 3 museums in one!

    Glad you enjoyed them both!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this post Judy (as usual) and took my time viewing each picture. I love the cathedral ~ I recognized several of the different types of ammunition used to create it due to Tim's passion for guns. I'll be sure to visit both places on my next trip to "the city by the bay." Thanks!

  4. Thanks Judy, You get an "A+" on your report! It was a lot of fun to treasure each photo and to view this through your eyes! :-)

  5. We loved the DeYoung, all gussied up in its new home, but still miss the old grande dame of a building it used to be. We thought one of the highlights was going up in the observation tower (a photo from there is on my desktop right now). I also liked a lot of the art, esp. all those silvery forms near the charred church art by Parker.

    This is my old stomping grounds--as I used to go to church in Menlo Park (where the mantle is from) and lived in Portola Valley, just a few miles south of San Francisco. We high school girls would head up to Tommy's Joynt for a look, and a sandwich, then drive through the city (esp. Lombard street), then home--calling it a Grand Day Out.