At the end of this month, on Sunday, July 31 at 2 pm, the Museum Board will host a reception for the renaming of the South Gallery. It will be named after one of the most powerful women I’ve had the pleasure and pleasurable annoyance of nudging minds with, Arabella Decker. When I say powerful, I’m talking about visionary strengths and sensibilities on many levels. Decker passed away in January of this year.
I met Arabella when I joined Women’s Caucus for Arts almost 20 years ago. Arabella was a founding member of this group, and has been a major supporter for many arts programs, galleries, and museums around the Peninsula and across the US to Florida. At WCA she taught me by example how to share what I know about art with others, how to look for and support the vision of artists, and how to arrange a balanced art exhibit when confronted with a hodgepodge of diversity. She also encouraged me to use my verbal voice, something I had a great difficulty doing early on in my life.
Arabella had one of those encyclopedia minds that never stopped giving. Talking with her was like being back in school at the Art University -- both inspiring and exhausting. Many strong minded people absolutely loved her and hung on every word, trying to give back just as much as she gave them (but often failing). Others saw her strength and were repelled, completely misunderstanding her genius. I heard one man call her a dragon lady and I laughed out loud. Yes, she was a dragon of a human being, and we all benefited from her fire.
As a painter and sculptor, Arabella Decker created art that stretched the minds of the viewers. Her vision of beauty was much deeper than the surface. She textured her work, riddled it with the hardships of living with deep pain, something most of us come to know as we grow older, but which Decker learned to live with from a very early age. I see her artwork as a flashlight trained on the sufferings of humanity, illuminating the courage that it takes for survivors to turn darkness into light.
As I look back on what Arabella contributed to my life I am deeply grateful in so many ways. In fact, the Peninsula Museum of Art, Burlingame, San Mateo County, and the Peninsula are all grateful for Arabella Decker whether they know about her many contributions or not. Her influence with artists and viewers has taken in decades and is enduring.
Now, when I bring her face up to mind I see the soft skin and flowing hair that protected that amazing brain. I see those clear snappy eyes looking back at me (at every Woman) saying, “You are strong, you are beautiful, take charge of your life!”
For more information on Arabella Decker please come to the name change presentation and exhibition, where Decker’s longtime friend, Museum Board member Kim Nelson, will speak. Decker paintings, sculptures and memorabilia will be on display through October 9.
Tea Garden in the Fog
“PAI on My Mind” contains the personal observations of the artist in Studio 26, and not necessarily those of PAI as a whole.