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new director of UCLA's Fowler Museum is out to offer visitors who
are willing to make the commitment an experience that is both challenging
By Cynthia Lee
Photography by Jonah Light
through the Fowler Museum, the visitor is immersed in a cultural
milieu unlike any she has ever experienced. Within the galleries,
arrayed around a serene garden courtyard, have been recreated the
treasure-filled burial chambers of Peru's ancient Moche royalty.
There have been haunting ritual altars of Haitian vodou, laid out
for the imminent arrival of a high priest. Museum-goers have been
thrust into the disparate worlds of the Mexican balladeers, creators
of the corrido tradition, and of the women embroiderers of Suzhou,
China, precision artisans of translucent silk thread and needle.
They've traveled the art "galleries" along L.A.'s mean
streets to glimpse the muffler men, whimsical nuts-and-bolts sculptures
turned out from discarded auto parts.
enter these worlds, Museum Director Marla Berns '73, M.A. '76, Ph.D.
'86 knows, visiting adventurers make a visceral connection with
the artifacts on display, whether they are pieces of woven cloth,
artfully decorated gourds, photographs, tribal headdresses or, as
in the latest exhibition through July 28, intricately quilted garments
from a fishing village on a small Japanese island. Senses aroused,
these travelers feel compelled to know more about who made this,
why and what stories these objects can tell about the makers' social
universe. Thus, the journey begins and deepens as visitors take
in the accompanying text, listen to music or recorded sounds, react
to the visuals, absorbing as much or as little as
they wish of what the museum provides.