Brush with Art: Art historian makes history at the OMA

Brush with Art: Art historian makes history at the OMA
Ann Hoehn, Adult Education Coordinator and Lecturer at the Oceanside Museum of Art, inspires audiences as she shares her enthusiasm for art history. Courtesy photo

San Diego County residents automatically associate the Hoehn name with the local automotive dynasty. 

Continuing a legacy of 80 years and four generations in the sale of automobiles, Hoehn Motors has enjoyed iconic status in Southern California since its establishment in Carlsbad in 1975.

However, one strong-minded member of the venerable automotive clan has answered a different calling, choosing a lifelong career in the arts.

A native of Memphis, Tenn., Ann Hoehn arrived in the San Diego area in 1976 following her parents’ relocation to La Jolla. She tells of her life’s journey, “My interest in art history actually began in high school when I took an art history course. My teacher imbued a passion in me.”

During a six-week tour of Europe as a teenager, she experienced for the first time Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Vatican Museum in Rome. She recalls, “I literally almost fell to my knees I was so overwhelmed with its sublimity.”

With great inspiration, she later earned her bachelor’s degree in art history from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

After docent training at San Diego Museum of Art and later at the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park, Hoehn served as a docent with both institutions for six years. The experience of deep immersion in the arts led to her desire to obtain an advanced degree in art history.

Hoehn also wanted to share with her two children the world in which she had grown up, so she moved with them to Memphis pursue her master’s degree at the University of Memphis.

She states, “I spent probably five months over two years in Denmark to work on my thesis, which was on the late 19th century Danish artist, Vilhem Hammershoi. Scandinavian art is not normally taught, so I wanted to research an artist that has not been given enough recognition.”

Returning to San Diego, she completed her final thesis by correspondence and received her degree in 1997.

Hoehn taught art history classes as an adjunct professor of art history at the University of San Diego until accepting the position as director of education at the Timken Museum in 2004.

Early in the summer of 2013, Hoehn stepped into the newly created position of adult education coordinator and lecturer at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

During the month of June she delivered her initial lecture series with topics including the art of the Italian Renaissance, Northern European Reformation and Counter Reformation, Rococo to Impressionism of 19th century France, and Post-Impressionism to the 1960s in the United States.

Today she continues to enrich her education by taking courses at the British Institute in Florence, Italy, and as a result brings excitement and inspiration to the information she shares with her audiences.

Paralleling Hoehn’s life, writer and mystic Thomas Merton wrote her favorite quote, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

During each of her annual trips to Italy she makes a pilgrimage to San Miniato, an active Benedictine monastery considered the most beautiful Romanesque cloisters in Tuscany. In the monastery’s crypt she finds a sense of quiet reverence, solitude and peace as she loses herself in the chanting of the monks.

Hoehn reflects on her love for art history, “I think my greatest characteristic is my passion for the subject. I try to imbue my passion into (the audience), and if anyone walks away enlightened I feel I have done my job.”

Stretching her talents beyond the boundaries of art history, as a member of the Amateur Pianists Association Hoehn performs regularly as a classical pianist.

She has also ventured into the world of literary arts with the publication of her first novel titled “Corinne and Me,” an autobiographical story of growing up in Memphis during the racially tumultuous 1960s and the impact of her relationship with the nanny who helped raise her during that turbulent era.

She has recently completed a second edition titled “One River, Two Oceans, and Raindrops In Between.”

The Oceanside Museum of Art is featuring Ann Hoehn speaking on the History of Landscape from the Renaissance to Modern Times Oct. 9, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. For reservations and additional information about this and future events, call the Oceanside Museum of Art at (760) 435-3721.

Kay Colvin is director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, serves as an arts commissioner for the City of Encinitas, and specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists. Contact her at kaycolvin@lstreetfineart.com.

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