Tag Archives: metal sculpture

Día de los Muertos

On Sunday my friends and I went to the Oakland Día de los Muertos festival centered around the Fruitvale BArt station, and all I can say is, “Wow!” What an extravaganza of sights, smells, & sounds… it was like a trip south of the border, but right here in our own backyard. As we exited the BArt station, the wailing tones of a trumpet greeted us… somehow that sound always says to me, “Mexico!”

This was the scene…

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El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans living in the U.S. and Canada. It is a day to celebrate and remember friends and family members who have died, and has its origins in an Aztec festival thousands of years old, dedicated to the worship of the Goddess Mictecacihuatl (Queen of the Underworld, Lady of the Dead) [Wikipedia]. For this reason there were numerous dance troupes performing traditional Aztec dances throughout the festival. Their headdresses were quite fantastical with feathers sometimes four feet long. Here are a few…

traditional aztec dancers

traditional aztec dancers

The traditional means of honoring ones loved ones is to build an alter to them.
These typically include a picture of the person being remembered, items they were fond of, food, candles, flowers, gifts, and more. They can be quite small & simple (a few items inside a shoebox) or incredibly large & elaborate with intricate artistic displays… we saw several that had amazing motifs created out of colored sand, rocks, beans, and more. Here are a few…

day of the dead altar

day of the dead altar

There were carnival rides too… we had to go down the superslide!

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And extensive arts & crafts stations were set up throughout the festival where kids (and grownups) could create paper masks, paint sugar skulls & ceramic skeletons, cut patterned paper festival banners, and more. It was quite wholesome and so inspiring to see all the budding young artists at work!

día de los muertos festival

día de los muertos festival

día de los muertos festival

There were also plenty of grown-up artists displaying their wares. Typical Day of the Dead art incorporates skulls and skeleton figures into scenes reminiscent of those still alive… dancing, playing music, etc. This is meant to “show the duality of life, which is that it can only exist surrounded by death… that death is a part of life, to be accepted and acknowledged instead of feared.” [http://diadelosmuertos.us]

day of the dead art

day of the dead art

I particularly loved this artist’s work (below). His name is Ivan Rubio and you can see more of his incredible paintings at his myspace page: rubio (I couldn’t find his regular website.) Please check him out… this photo doesn’t do his beautiful work justice.

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SF Shout Out!

I zipped into San Francisco early Saturday morning to pick up my new Canon G11 from Calumet.  Have you guys been there?  It’s a great professional photography store with really just about everything… cameras (of course), studio & lighting equipment, seamless supplies, printers with a wide assortment of papers, a fantastic equipment rental department, and an art gallery upstairs.

The G11 is the first camera I’ve bought in over three years since buying my 5D (except for my Holga), and I am very excited! Nearly all of the photos I’ve posted on this blog were taken either with a 8 year old camera (which isn’t particularly pocket-sized) or with my iPhone, because I am too lazy to carry my big camera everywhere. With this new smaller camera, I plan to take my photo-documentarianism to the next level! (And yes, I do believe I made up that word.)

While waiting for the camera store to open, I spotted CELLspace across the street. I haven’t been there in a few years (sadly), and I definitely don’t remember it being quite this amazingly cool outside…

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Recognize the hand above? The same stencil exists in Oakland… have you seen it? Check back for the Oaktown version, and hopefully a bit more info about the artist who created it.

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The one above reminds me of a cool poster slapped up in multiple parts by Ashby and Telegraph. It’s Berkeley, not Oakland, but peeps keep mentioning it to me so I think I’ll throw that up later this week too. Please visit again. We’ll be headed to the cemetery at the end of the week for a properly spooky Halloween!

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Loma Prieta Earthquake – 20 years later

If you live in the Bay Area, it’s hard to not be aware of the fact that tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. It was the biggest earthquake in the Bay Area since the “big one” of 1906, and at the time, was the nation’s most expensive natural disaster (now grossly surpassed by Katrina).

I didn’t yet live here in ’89, but I was not far away, living in another earthquake-prone region, Southern California. I remember watching the images on tv… the fires raging through the marina, the collapsed upper deck panel of the Bay Bridge and the car that careened off where its support had once been, and of course, the images of the collapsed Cypress Freeway, built before the 1950’s and the use of modern seismic safety standards. This is where the highest number of fatalities occurred… 42 people on the lower deck were literally crushed to death.

The freeway was rebuilt years later in a different location, further west to provide access to the Port of Oakland, and what now remains where that portion of freeway once was, is the recently redeveloped Mandela Parkway, which I have featured in several other posts. Between 13th and 14th Streets is located Oakland Memorial Park, which is a beautifully rendered tribute to the events of that day.

Here is the actual seismograph from those 15 seconds…

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Designed by April Philips Design Works and artists Gilman and Keefer, the landscape work conveys the waves that moved through the earth that day, with undulating sections of native grasses, and plantings arranged in concentric arcs emanating from the “epicenter,” Story Plaza at the corner of 14th and Mandela. Here, three curved ladders represent both the literal ladders thrown up against the damaged structure that day by local residents to save those trapped within, and the symbolic hope of community spirit rising skyward from the dust of destruction. Excerpts from stories offered by local residents are imprinted into the concrete, such as “When the quake stopped, a rain of concrete dust obscured everything.”

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On this anniversary, it seems fitting to remember that we do live in an earthquake prone region, and it is extremely likely that we will see another earthquake of similar magnitude in our lifetimes. In fact, there is a 62% probability of at least one quake of this size within the next 20 years. This statistic and an incredible wealth of information on the science of earthquakes and what we can do to prepare for them is located at the U.S. Geological Survey’s site “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country.” Please check it out. Strap those waterheaters. Get your disaster kits together. These things really do make a difference.

And by all means, go visit the Oakland Memorial Park… it’s a lovely spot to sit and remember.

Oakland Arts Unveiled

So last friday night was another of the First Fridays series in Oakland… I have to admit I was feeling a bit under the weather, so it wasn’t a big night out for me.  But there was some interesting stuff going on and I was able to hit a little bit of it before retiring home to a cat on my lap and a bowl of chicken soup.

First, I was surprised to discover, during my research for Friday night plans, a relatively new website called OaklandArts.org.  Seems that they launched back in June of 2009 as the first-ever centrally located website for all things art related in the city of Oakland… and I thought that’s what my site was going to be!  Well they may have beaten me to the punch, but I think there is room for both of us, don’t you?

Their site still seems a bit buggy to me (ran into some broken links and had trouble sending them a message) but I’m sure they’ll get these things straightened out in due time.

They’ve got a wealth of information about Artists and Art Organizations, Events, Funding Opportunities, and more.  If you are an artist or part of an Arts Organization, you should definitely enter  your info into their growing database: http://www.oaklandarts.org/register.php Be sure to include a photo for best visibility.

This website and a related site 510arts.com, were both highlighted during a party at Frank Ogawa Plaza early Friday evening. The 510arts website is a collaborative effort between the neighboring cities of Richmond, Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland, geared towards promoting the greater East Bay as a world class art & cultural destination. Woo hoo!

There was live jazz, a wonderful performance by the Oakland Youth Choir, numerous speakers including our relatively new City Councilperson at large (meaning she is the only councilperson who represents the entire city), Rebecca Kaplan, and installations of various sculptural art pieces on loan courtesy of NIMBY.  Here’s one of Michael Christian‘s Fire Flowers… I didn’t stay late enough to see if it was set up to shoot flames.

The biggest thing I took away from this party was a quote issued by Rebecca Kaplan. She said, “The Oakland Renaissance has begun!!” More on this, and the galleries I hit after the party in my next couple posts…

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The Crucible

How can I write about metal art in Oakland and not speak of The Crucible? It’s an institution, and one of my favorite things about Oakland. This is what makes Oakland cool. That you can throw a festival of fire next door to BART, in which a column of fire is sprayed 80 feet into the air, with the bart tracks & trains running right by. What do the people from Walnut Creek think?!!

This multi-disciplinary non-profit facility is responsible for a good chunk of art at Burning Man, the annual Fire Arts Festival in Oakland (which moved to a new location near Fruitvale this past summer), and a slew of classes at their West Oakland Bart oriented location… everything from blacksmithing (of course), to ceramics, fire-dancing, moldmaking, and much more. Please check out their links, because I simply can’t tell you enough to truly do them justice.

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The word ‘crucible’ refers to a vessel or container used for heating substances to high temperatures. Below is an example of one they have sitting out front… It’s comprised of thick steel wrapped around an interior of concrete, and it is huge!

Another meaning of the word is “a place, time, or situation characterized by the confluence of powerful intellectual, social, economic, or political forces.” (dictionary.com) The Crucible truly is this, for they define themselves as a collaboration of Art, Industry, & Community, and rightfully so.

Their location in a historically depressed part of West Oakland rejuvenates the area with art, commerce, and education, accessible to all through classes, community events & service projects, and more..

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They recently received an NEA grant that allowed them to install a new ramp, making the facility wheelchair accessible. See below all the intricate metal work adorning it, icons of bay area history, glossed in fire-engine red enamel … our current city logo (the oak tree), the Port of Oakland, the Fox Theater, the Tribune Tower, the Bay Bridge, the Black Panthers, Rosie the Riveter and more.

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Automania continued…

So I had planned to move on to something else today, but since my dear devoted reader asked (thank you Rattlebox), I will talk about Automania a bit more. However, please note that I do go to a bit of effort to set up links to all the wonderful artists and studios I mention, and though I try to highlight as much information in my posts as I can, you will undoubtedly be better served by using these links and going straight to the source!

Having said that, Automania is a supplier of picture cars and props to the film industry. Their warehouse spans a full block, and apparently houses an incredible number of historic cars, as well as auto-related props, sets, and backdrops. Check out their picture car photo gallery and imagine the implications of their insane parking scenario… 

It reminds me of those puzzles we did on long car drives when I was a kid, where a square with 16 square slots was filled with 15 tiny square pieces that slid either horizontally or vertically within the larger square… you could only move one piece one square at a time, and the goal was to rearrange all the pieces to form a picture. Needless to say, those puzzles were fun for all of about 5 minutes. I can’t imagine being Automania’s parking lot attendant. Yikes!

The company was founded by car enthusiast Bill Silveira, and I am assuming he is the creator of many of the metal sculptures featured in and around the property.  You can see more of his artistic creations here.  And here are a few more shots I took as I tooled around his warehouse in Jingletown…

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Check out the cool cactus planter created out of a couple slabs of metal above.

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Rust in Peace

So I thought this week we’d talk about METAL…

Many of us in modern society have little experience manipulating metal, other than perhaps wrapping a piece of tinfoil around our leftover pizza or crushing a soda can before tossing it in the recycling. But for centuries of human history the man who could shape metal was an important man indeed.  He made the weapons and armor, the horseshoes, plowshares, and wagon wheel rims, the locks and chains, nearly all of the tools, and much much more.  There is a wealth of information on this history at the Appalachian Blacksmiths Association website.

With the industrial revolution and the mechanization of many processes, many blacksmiths were replaced by machinists in factories.  Many of these metalworkers went on to become the first generation of auto mechanics (Wikipedia).  Which kind of brings us right around to where I want to be…

I’ve been wanting to focus on metal sculptures and other interesting manipulations of metal for a bit now, but was reminded last week when I took a walking tour of the Jingletown area around the Institute of Mosaic Arts. I passed by Automania and saw all kinds of fantastic metal sculptures and fabrications, mostly welded together out of car parts. Automania’s front entrance is on Glascock, but the back of the warehouse and car lot are on Ford Street, which is where these shots were taken.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? I love the spark plugs!

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