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Beautiful Connections
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Marla BernsThe 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 and informative
By Cynthia Lee
Photography by Jonah Light

Wandering 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.

To 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.


2005 The Regents of the University of California