An exhibit showcasing workers who are the backbone of the region’s economy will make its premiere this week at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.
Titled “Central Valley Threads: Picking Out Strands of Life and Art in the Central Valley,” the exhibit will launch with a 6 p.m. Saturday reception at the center.
The show, coordinated by UC Merced Professor Jan Goggans, is made up of a half-dozen smaller exhibits and weaves together music, literature, photography, video and oral history to tell the stories of the workers, according to a UC Merced press release.
Goggans’ project focuses on the life and work of poet Wilma McDaniel, whose collected writings reside at UC Merced. Presented with McDaniel’s poetry are personal items illustrating the poet’s life.
“What’s so exciting about this exhibit is its focus on people who have not been seen in traditional museum shows,” Goggans said in the release.
Other projects profile hillbilly music queen Rose Maddox and the worlds of contemporary truckers, the homeless and the region’s marginalized poor.
UC Davis Professor Susan Kaiser, a fashion studies scholar working with Goggans on the exhibit, looked at the ornate stage outfits worn by Maddox and her performing brothers.
McDaniel and Maddox were part of the great migration of Oklahomans to California in the 1930s. Maddox and her clan survived on a “mix of fruit and guitar, fiddle and bass picking,” Kaiser said. “Today, there’s much to learn from the sense of hope she and her family brought to the Central Valley.”
Other parts of the exhibit remind viewers that long road treks remain at the core of the Central Valley experience. Created by Glenda Drew and her husband, Jesse Drew of UC Davis, “Central Drive” is a live-cinema video presentation that explores life on the highway. Another exhibit, by Glenda Drew and artist-photographer Melissa Chandon, follows the lives of truckers.
Also employing photography, UC Merced literature instructor Ray Winter looks at the enduring presence of hunger and homelessness in the Central Valley. Another video project, by Glenda Drew and her husband, traces country-western music’s working-class origins, according to the news release.
Saturday’s reception will include music, food, drinks and a live-cinema performance. A keynote address by regional author Gerald W. Haslam is slated for 8:15 p.m.
The exhibit runs through Oct. 4 at the center, 645 W. Main St. in downtown Merced. Admission is free.