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The Meaning of the Elusive Single Family Home at the San Jose Museum of Art

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‘Sandía/ Watermelon‘ by Carmen Lomas Garza is part of the exhibit ‘The House Imaginary‘ at the San Jose Museum of Art (Courtesy of the San Jose Museum of Art)

My daughter has a close friend who often says, “I’m a millennial, which means I’ll never own a home.” What a sad comment. But it’s pretty realistic here in the Bay Area, with its elusive and over-priced homes. So that makes The House Imaginary, the new show at the San Jose Museum of Art, among the most important of the year.

Curator Lauren Shell Dickens says she began with the question: what does a single family home mean in the Bay Area today?

“In terms of today’s housing crisis, but also in terms of today’s era of mobility, and immigration,” she said. “And how can a house signify both stability and a place of refuge, but also such uncertainty in today’s world?”

Tabaimo‘s ‘Dolefullhouse‘
Tabaimo‘s ‘Dolefullhouse‘ (Courtesy of the San Jose Museum of Art)

Among the pieces in the show is an illustration by Carmen Lomas Garza of a Latino family eating watermelon on their front porch (above), and it’s a serene image of safety and family togetherness. And then, for contrast, there’s a drawing by Roger Shimomura of a pleasant room with a birthday cake and barbed wire visible outside the window. It’s a memory of Shimomura’s time in an Idaho internment camp during World War II, showing how a house can sometimes be a cruel prison.

California artist Larry Sultans ‘Mom Posing by A Green Wall‘ from 1984
California artist Larry Sultans ‘Mom Posing by A Green Wall‘ from 1984 (Courtesy of The San Jose Museum of Art)

The museum is also presenting a double feature on May 17 of the horror films Get Out, Jordan Peele’s creepy-home story of last year; and The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s gothic masterpiece set in an old hotel from 1980.


Coming back to the theme of the Bay Area’s housing crisis, Dickens will join Megan Colvard, regional director of People Assisting the Homeless for a gallery talk about the show. Dickens notes that the museum’s portico is often a shelter for the homeless at night and during the rainy season. The House Imaginary opens April 20 and continues through August 19. Details here.

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