Sunday, February 18, 2018

Handkerchief Heroes: a slide show and discussion with Ann Mahony


Handkerchiefs have served us in life’s tender moments – catching a bride’s tears of joy, worn over a soldier’s heart as he marches into battle, fashioned into a newborn’s christening bonnet, as well as life’s large celebrations – waving bon voyage from an ocean liner, cheering “hooray” at the Super Bowl or royal coronation. Handkerchiefs were the Pinterest of their day, recording our progression from railroad to air travel, from the birth of television to women’s right to vote, from Shakespearean sonnets to children’s nursery rhymes. Come discover the stories hidden in their folds; let your eye delight, your mind engage and your heart connect with these survivors of history.

Join Ann Mahony, a historian of vintage artifacts and handkerchief collector, as she shares pieces from her private collection.

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
2:00pm - 4:00pm
Main Library - Learning Studio, 5th Floor

Visit the Art, Music & Recreation Center on the 4th Floor to visit The Amazing Handkerchief Chronicler of Romance, Heroism, History, Fashion and Art through the Ages display and for your chance to win a vintage wedding handkerchief.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

NEW EXHIBIT (1/27/18 - 5/17/18)

The Amazing Handkerchief:
Chronicler of Romance, Heroism, History, Fashion and Art through the Ages

The ubiquitous handkerchief is with us in large and small moments of life–wrapping a child’s cut finger, catching a bride’s tears of joy, worn over a soldier’s heart into battle. Handkerchiefs date back to the Chou dynasty (1000 BCE) and possibly earlier. Once considered a sign of nobility, they later transitioned into a coveted accessory for both fashion and flirting.

Their size and versatility made handkerchiefs the perfect souvenir. From the Paris Exposition of 1900 to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, handkerchiefs carried images of architecture, amusements and adventures to share and remember. Many were saved and passed to future generations, along with the stories and memories they carried.

In times of sacrifice - the Great Depression, World War II - handkerchiefs were often the lone adornment a woman could afford, costing between five and fifty cents. Vogue magazine carried ads for “Handkerchief of the Month”. After the war, Balmain, Dior, Rochas, and others continued to feature handkerchiefs as a final touch to their haute couture.

These couriers of history carried images that recorded our progression from steamship to railway to flight, from women’s suffrage to the birth of television, and from children’s nursery rhymes to Shakespearean sonnets. “Hankies” chronicled adventure, travel, romance, history, politics, sports and more, with style, wit and enchanting graphics. Come discover the stories hidden in their evanescent folds. Your mind will engage and your heart will connect with these heroes of history. Also, you'll have a chance to win your very own vintage handkerchief in our "Hankie in a Hankie" drawing! (see the Art, Music & Recreation reference desk for details)

This private collection has been curated and shared by Ann Mahony, a historian of vintage artifacts and handkerchief collector (over 5,000+ pieces including several over a century old!). Her blogs include www.TheAccidentalCollector.com and www.HandkerchiefHeroes.com. She is a member of the Textile Arts Council, deYoung Museum, The Vintage Fashion Guild, The Costume Society of America and the National Speakers Association. Ann is a handwriting and forgery expert by trade (www.forgerysleuth.com) and is thus habituated to searching for the obscure and interesting.

Related Program: Handkerchief Heroes
Slide show and discussion with Ann Mahony
Sunday, February 25, 2 PM
Learning Studio, Bridge at the Main, 5th Floor

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ukulele for Absolute Beginners


On Jan. 27th the Art, Music, and Recreation Center launched its first ever ukulele workshop. This is an on-going workshop for those with no experience playing an instrument. Staff are there to help patrons with the basics, which include, tuning, holding, strumming and forming chords on the ukulele.

The workshop meets the last Saturday of the month in the 5th floor Learning Center from 2-3pm. It is open to all ages and ukulele's are provided (to use in class) for the first 10 patrons. You can also bring your own or borrow one from a friend.

Here's a link to the next workshop on February 24, 2018.

For those ready to dig into our collection of ukulele song and method books, here are a few suggestions:


Jake Shimabukuro Teaches Ukulele Lessons (Hal Leonard, 2017).

The 4 Chord Ukulele Songbook (Cherry Lane Music, 2013).

Play Ukulele Today!: A Complete Guide to the Basics. Level 1, by Barrett Tagliarino (Hal Leonard, 2015).

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area (1996)

Since the days of the Gold Rush, Asian-Americans have made significant contributions to the Bay Area's culture.  Yet for many years the arts and literature of Asian-Americans remained on the margins.  In the 1960s student movements on college campuses led to community activism that helped bring Asian American culture into the wider community.

One result of this activity was the founding of the Kearny Street Workshop in 1972.  Elsa S. Cameron described the Workshop arising "because of the initiative of ethnic artists who decided to go back and work in their communities."  She quotes founder Michael Chin who described the impetus as a "search for cultural identity."  Nancy Hom places the work of the Kearny Street Workshop as coming within an "exploration" that looked into questions of "identity, history and cultural pride."

In 1996 the San Francisco Art Commission Cultural Equity Endowment funded the Asian Art Museum and the Kearny Street Workshop to compile and publish the Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.  More than twenty years old now this work is no longer a timely guide to the Asian American arts and artists, but it does serve as an important time capsule documenting the activity of the time.

The Resource Guide is a directory of individuals and organizations active in the visual, performing and literary arts.  It provides contact information, a description of which ethnic community each person or organization represents, the number of years that they have been presenting programs and who their primary audience is.  Each entry also includes the artist's or organization's mission statement.  Occasionally an email address is given for a contact, but at this stage nobody had a webpage yet.  An index at the end of the volume is organized by artistic form.

A lot of changes can happen over a couple of decades. Many of the organizations have moved or ceased to be active. Many artists have moved out of the Bay Area or have passed away.  (But it is nice to see an entry for the late Ruth Asawa).

It was interesting to see our City's elected Public Defender Jeff Adachi (Jeffrey Adachi in the directory) listed as the contact for the apparently now longer extant Asian American Arts Foundation (AAAF).  This organization's mission was to "[provide] financial support and public recognition and acknowledgement for Asian American Art projects that present and true to life portrayals of Asian Americans."  This foundation had a web presence at http://www.aaafoundation.com/ that was last updated on June 12, 2000 and that disappeared by sometime in 2002.  (The "Wayback Machine" of Archive.org has captured these webpages for the years 1998 to 2002).

Nowadays the information in this directory would be readily available on the web.  But as we have seen webpages come and go on the internet.  The Resource Guide of Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area gives us a picture of a vibrant scene for one moment.  It provides a way to find the roots of part of the Bay Area's rich cultural tapestry.


Asian American Arts Foundation [website archived on March 22, 2002]

Cameron, Elsa S., "The San Francisco Art Comission's Neighborhood Arts Program," in The Art Museum as Educator: A Collection of Studies as Guides to Practice and Policy by the Council on Museums and Education in the Visual Arts (University of California Press, 1978).

Hom, Nancy, "Kearny Street Workshop," Nancy Hom Arts (March 24, 2009).

Resource Guide of Asian and Asian American Artists in the San Francisco Bay Area (Asian Art Museum: Kearny Street Workshop, 1996).

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of An Obsession


With Schubert's Winter Journey we do get what the subtitle promises, an "anatomy of an obsession." -- tenor Ian Bostridge's obsessive plumbing of the depths of the song cycle Winterreise.  It’s a real treat to read a loving account of a piece of music by somebody who has lived fully with the composition.

Bostridge has written a chapter for each of the 24 songs of the cycle where he gives a close reading of both Wilhelm Müller's poems and Schubert's musical setting.  He also brings a personal perspective to his account, describing how, as a child, he came to Schubert’s music and Winterreise, and the variety of circumstances where he has performed the cycle.

He details Schubert's creative path to the work as well as its performance history.  Bostridge goes into the circumstances of composer's life, discusses his circle of friends, plus the literature, politics, wars, censorship of that time, as well as Schubert's health difficulties and their effect on his outlook.

The changing reception and meaning of the work over time is also discussed, even the work’s place in Nationalist Socialist Germany.  Climate science, energy usage, changes in transportation, changes in social and sexual mores through history are not outside the book's purview.

Bostridge writes that the complete Winterreise was performed for the first time in 1860 by Julius Stockhausen.  Other sources, most recently Graham Johnson's Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs, state that the complete was first performed by Stockhausen in 1851.

The first complete performance of Winterreise was given in San Francisco on November 16, 1941 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, then located at 3438 California Street.


San Francisco Call November 14, 1941, source: San Francisco Programs. Music.

Pianist Ashley Pettis reviewed the performance in The Argonaut. (Pettis, a California native, had founded the Composers Forum Laboratory in New York in 1935 which he moved to San Francisco when he joined the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 1940).

He was struck that this was the cycle's first complete San Francisco performance which he described as "an illuminating commentary on the general run of program building, especially by singers, where, paradoxically, the lesser often obscures the greater." He reported that "Nicholas Goldschmidt succeeded to a remarkable degree in projecting the deeply subjective moods of Schubert's great songs" and that "Carl Fuerstner, at the piano, was completely en rapport with the singer as well as the requirements of Schubert's difficult and musically demanding accompaniments."
 source: The Argonaut (November 21, 1941).

Pettis sums up the event:
In the hands of these artists, who approached their task with admirable and unusual self-abnegation, Schubert's Winterreise sounded as fresh and modern as the day they were born, and took their listeners on a journey of rare musical experience for which we shall ever be grateful.
Nowadays a complete performance, while still a special occasion, is not such a rare event.  The library offers several recordings, in CD, LP, and streaming audio and video formats.  There are also myriad performances online. One recent treat in our collection is a DVD performance of the cycle by Matthias Goerne accompanied by Markus Hinterhäuser with an animated film by South African artist William Kentridge.

Even though it's an in-depth look at a complex musical composition, Bostridge’s presentation includes very few passage that require a knowledge of music or music theory. A read through Schubert's Winter Journey will deeply enrich the experience and understanding of this timeless music.


"American Music's Spark Plug," by Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle (September 1, 1940), p. 26.

Franz Schubert: The Complete Songs by Graham Johnson; translations of the song texts by Richard Wigmore (Yale University Press, 2014).

Julius Stockhausen: Der Sänger des deutschen Liedes (Englert und Schlosser, 1927).

"Music," by Ashley Pettis, The Argonaut (November 21, 1941), p. 14.

San Francisco Programs. Music (San Francisco Public Library, Oct./Dec. 1941).

Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy Of An Obsession by Ian Bostridge (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).

Winterreise [videorecording] by Franz Schubert (C Major Entertainment, 2017).