Indispensible: Victoria Mara Heilweil and Chris Treggiari

"Indispensable" is a monthly series that asks the de Young’s Artists in Residence to explain a tool that’s essential to their work.

Come a little closer.

A table saw isn’t the most obvious tool for creating intimacy, but for Chris Treggiari it’s essential. And a 50 millimeter camera lens is almost clinical in its fine precision, but in Victoria Mara Heilweil’s hands it elevates the mundane to the monumental.

These artists’ project in the de Young Artist Studio, My Museum, is about breaking down perceived distances and connecting visitors more closely with the work of the de Young. They do this in part by elevating the fine details of the museum’s work.

Treggiari makes constructions that seem familiar at first—an admissions desk or a store display case—but are slightly uncanny on closer examination. This strangeness could be off-putting, but by focusing on the craftsmanship of clean cuts and tight joints, his objects invite curiosity and connection. A table saw is a key element in getting these details just right.

Heilweil’s photographs are also about the value of the particular. She captures the traces of an employee’s work, things like a rack of tropical leaves used by a florist, or the tiny arm of a wooden figure emerging from a preparator’s careful wrapping. A 50 millimeter lens allows her to capture traces and vestiges of work that might otherwise be ignored, and to tell a rich human story in the process.

By focusing on personal connections, these artists’ use tools to reveal the essential role of a museum—a space to tell a shared story about what it means to be human. 

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