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Mission Madness

New exhibit at Oakland Museum of California sheds light on the culture of the early missions in California.


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Courtesy of Oakland Museum of California

If you grew up here, you learned the history of California’s beloved missions in fourth grade. Chances are, you even built a model of one out of sugar cubes or plaster of Paris.

As part of the project, you learned that the missions were key components of Spain’s colonization of what is now California. But little has been taught about the elaborate art of the early Catholic missions. Until now.

Oakland Museum of California is hosting a major retrospective, Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest: The Arts of the Missions of Northern New Spain, 1600–1821. OMCA is the only California museum and one of only two venues in the country to present the exhibition, which features religious sculptures, oil paintings, leather-bound books, and crucifixes, including one that is said to have bled miraculously in 1616.

The exhibit sheds light on California’s connection to Spain, the culture of the early missions, and their rich arts background, which is only minimally hinted at by those lovely fourth-grade projects.

The exhibition runs February 26 to May 29. For information, visit museumca.org

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