Through the lens of her camera, Dorothea Lange documented American life with riveting, intimate photographs that portrayed some of the most powerful moments of the 20th century. Lange was driven by the belief that seeing the effects of injustice could provoke reform and, just perhaps, change the world. From documenting the plight of Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression to illuminating the grim conditions of incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, Lange’s photographs demonstrate how empathy and compassion—focused through art—can sway minds and prompt change throughout this nation’s history. See how Lange’s work continues to resonate with millions and inspire new generations of artist-activists, illustrating the power of photography as a form of social activism. Drawing upon vintage prints, unedited proof sheets, personal memorabilia, and historic objects, this exhibition takes a unique approach to a beloved American photographer by reuniting photographs with comments and quotes by the people she photographed.
Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Susie Tompkins Buell Fund, Ann Hatch and Paul Discoe, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and Peter Rossi/Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.
In conjunction with the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing, January’s featured Read the West Book Club selection is the American classic The Grapes of Wrath. Published in 1939 by John Steinbeck, it evokes the harshness of the Great Depression and arouses sympathy for the struggles of migrant farmworkers. The story traces the migration of an Oklahoma Dust Bowl family to California and their subsequent hardships.
Guests enjoy a dinner of comfort foods inspired by Route 66 and prepared by The Petroleum Club of Oklahoma City while watching The Grapes of Wrath. Prohibition not enforced (cash bar available). Following the film, spend exclusive time in the exhibition Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing. As relatively inexpensive means of entertainment, movie attendance soared during the Great Depression. An unflinching adaptation of John Steinbeck’s controversial, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about an Oklahoma farm family’s struggle for survival in tough times, this unexpectedly realistic film not only earned universal critical acclaim, but also managed a spot among the 20 biggest box-office hits of the year. Introduced by film historian Elizabeth Anthony. Register Here.
Docents offer one-hour tours of the Museum’s spring exhibitions. Discover the vibrantly colored and sculpted pottery that was a dominate fixture of Native American daily life and are today viewed as one of the most notable Native American art forms in Colors of Clay. Explore Warhol and the West as represented in his art, movies and personal collections, including iconic subjects Geronimo and John Wayne. Wrap up with Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing. View some of the most powerful moments of the 20th century through Lange’s vintage prints, proof sheets and personal memorabilia. Saturdays and Sundays from February 29 – May 9. Free to Museum members or with Museum admission.
Photographer Dorothea Lange captured images of Americans, including many Oklahomans, as they struggled through the Great Depression. Listen to stories about her life and work at 10:15 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., create Depression-era toys including a rag doll and mini soapbox car, partake in a derby down the Museum hallway and sample food. Wrap up with a showing of Kit Kitteridge: An American Girl. Free for Museum members or with Museum admission. Available while supplies last.
With hardship and suffering as consistent areas of focus throughout her career, Dorothea Lange created arresting portraits with the aim of sparking reform. Join Drew Heath Johnson, Curator of Photography and Visual Culture, Oakland Museum of California, as he examines the central theme of Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing; the power of Lange’s photography to sway people’s minds and spur them to action. Johnson will examine both the effects of her imagery and her intentions, which could be quite contradictory. Bring your lunch or purchase one at The Museum Grill. Reservations are not required. Free admission to the Board Room and The Museum Grill.
Author and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Anne Whiston Spirn will present photographs of the American West in 1939 by the great American photographer Dorothea Lange. Lange’s images of squatter camps, beleaguered farmers and stark landscapes are stunning, and her captions – which range from simple explanations to historical notes and biographical sketches – add unexpected depth, bringing her subjects and their struggle unforgettably to life, often in their own words. Bring your lunch or purchase one at The Museum Grill. Reservations are not required. Free admission to the Board Room and The Museum Grill.
Presented by Sally Stein, revisit the great photographic career of Dorothea Lange by offering a new perspective on the making of “Migrant Mother,” her most famous Depression-era image, and its changing reception over the last eight decades. Stein is Professor Emerita of Art History & Film and Media Studies at University of California, Irvine, and author of the essay “Peculiar Grace: Dorothea Lange and the Testimony of the Body,” published in Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life. Bring your lunch or purchase one at The Museum Grill. Reservations are not required. Free admission to the Board Room and The Museum Grill.