A Friday Evening at the Los Altos History Museum: A review of the Annie Knapp Fitz Paints exhibition


Los Altos Chamber

The Los Altos History Museum is dedicated to sharing the rich history and agricultural transformation of Los Altos.

As the aspiring art historian closes the door of her car and quickly walks towards the door of the Los Altos History Museum, she appears confused as only three other young faces look through the glass doors. She is already running late, and the tablecloths just scream festive Halloween and supply runs to Party City in order to maintain that fall is important to the City of Los Altos. The aspiring art historian tries to quietly slip into the museum to view the work. She is greeted by a chorus of hellos and welcomes and nice-to-see-you-agains. The aspiring art historian finds a seat, and as she slinks further and further into the chair trying to fully immerse herself in the museum, more people appear and join her table. She feels a sense of trepidation sitting silently at the table playing with the black plastic spider ring.

Upon hearing the door open another time, the aspiring art historian looks up to see her friend, the one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck, strolling towards her. The one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck waves at the aspiring art historian, and the aspiring art historian waves back. And as the one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck strolls towards the aspiring art historian’s table, the conversation takes a turn from discussing the Catholic school football rivalry to the benefits and drawbacks of using Slack. Slowly finding herself becoming more and more hungry, the aspiring art historian hears the one with fluffy hair announces that dinner is ready. The one with fluffy hair spends a couple of minutes justifying the reason behind tonight’s meal of vegetable chow mein, egg rolls, and fried wontons from Chef Chu’s; it seems as if the one with fluffy hair wants to justify that Chinese food is not only a celebration food, but a regular meal food, one that can be eaten outside of Chinese New Year. The aspiring art historian’s eyes drift to the painting positioned across from her––a man with a small dog standing near a Japanese tea garden. Wondering to herself if the one with fluffy hair became inspired by the piece and decided to buy Chinese food, she hears the shuffling of folding chairs and the movement of people.

The trek to the kitchen is short but filled with awkward sorrys and here-is-a-plate-for-you. And as the aspiring art historian sits with her food, her eyes can’t help but be drawn into Annie Knapp Fitz’s exhibition. The striking blue green walls surprise the aspiring art historian while she wonders if this was an intentional curatorial choice in order to highlight Fitz’s impressionist style of painting. Fervent brushstrokes accompanied by tame and timid ones line the walls and tell viewers of Fitz’s passion for painting and preserving Los Altos history.

Dinner is finished and plates are pushed aside as the aspiring art historian and the one with the silver jewelry and turtleneck dutifully march into the exhibition room to participate in a scavenger hunt. The aspiring art historian is entranced by the flat painting style of Fitz’s work and her use of space. And then the aspiring art historian spots it. The very pieces she wanted to show the one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck. The depiction of Japanese individuals in Los Altos during the 20th century is the pièce de résistance for the exhibition. Fitz’s Strawberry Farm, 1971 draws inspiration from Van Gogh and at the bottom right corner features an Asian-looking woman carrying a black-haried baby on her back. The one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck reads the exhibition tag aloud to the aspiring art historian:


Strawberry Farm, c. 1920
1971, Oil on panel
Annie notes that many of the strawberry farms in Los Altos and Mountain View were run by Japanese families. There was also a Japanese School on Hillview Avenue, which everyone was invited to attend.
Los Altos History Museum Collection, 1995.013.084


Then, the aspiring art historian and the one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck share a look acknowledging the absurdity and brilliance of Strawberry Farm and enact their own performance art documenting the piece to live in their iPhones. The one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck takes it one step further and posts the photo to Instagram for it to live in the depths of the online world.

The art historian slinks out of the museum making small talk with the one who dated her friend and bids the one with silver jewelry and a turtleneck goodbye. As she leaves the museum’s parking lot, she rolls down the window and starts blasting “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.