Tag Archives: north oakland

May all the beings in all the worlds become Happy…

Ok kids… so I’m going to continue the focus on murals for the next few days because:

  1. I am swamped with work and this writing stuff takes time
  2. The murals are so amazing they speak for themselves, so I don’t have to say much
  3. There are bunch of ’em in the Broadway and 40th vicinity we’ve been exploring lately

Here’s the next… it’s at the corner of Broadway and 49th, right in my old hood.  It kind of reminds me of the one I featured a couple weeks ago next to Ghost Town Farm… similar message of peace & happiness between all peoples, and an interesting mix of iconography… the moon, the earth, the sun, egyptian pharaohs, and the buddha… not to mention the classic graffiti style writing.  It’s pretty cool.

Oakland Mural at Broadway and 49th

The left side of the mural reads “Lokah Samasah Sukhino Bhavantu” which apparently is Sanskrit.
How do I know this? Google. Thanks Google! The phrase translates to the title of this post, which you will also see painted on the far right side of the mural.

lokah samasah sukhino bhavantu, Oakland Mural

lokah samasah sukhino bhavantu Mural

egyptian, oakland mural, lokah samasah sukhino bhavantu

The buddha depicted in the center looks almost female to me, resting on her lotus flower, floating above the Earth. The words “Infinite Potential” are painted across.

oakland mural, Infinite Possibility

oakland mural, community rejuvination project, broadway and 49th

As you can see here, the mural was created as part of a Community Rejuvenation Project by Little Village MAS students: Abicus, Daz, Dési, Fact, Jinx, and Raven. Nice work kids!

Ella Baker Center Murals

Just a stone’s throw from Mama’s Royal Cafe is the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an action center working for justice, opportunity, and peace in urban America.  There are some wonderful murals on the exterior of their space, depicting the themes and goals on which their organization is focused.

ella baker center building

Co-founded in 1996 by Diana Frappier and now famous Van Jones of Green for All, the Ella Baker Center has grown in a little over 10 years from a small-scale operation with only one full time staff person, to a “grassroots powerhouse” with 24 “world-class” human rights activists.  Their work is focused through four primary campaigns designed to promote positive alternatives to violence and incarceration:

  • Books not Bars works towards redirecting California resources away from youth incarceration facilities and towards youth opportunities
  • Green Collar Jobs works towards promoting California as a leader in creating a thriving and equitable green collar economy, strong enough to provide employment opportunities for all
  • Soul of the City “works to transform Oakland into a socially just, spiritually connected, ecologically sustainable city with shared prosperity for all”
  • Heal the Streets as an outgrowth of Silence the Violence, works to provide hands on training for future social justice leaders through a 10 month fellowship program for Oakland youth and young adults (ages 15 – 18)

Ella Baker, Oakland Icons

Ella Baker is pictured above. Born in 1903 in Norfolk, VA, she grew up listening to her grandmother, a previous slave, tell stories of slave revolts. She graduated valedictorian of her college class in 1927 in North Carolina, moved to New York, and became a leading African-American civil rights leader and human rights activist for over five decades. What an incredible woman!

Black Panthers, Green Jobs Not Jails, Ella Baker Center Murals

The Ella Baker Center continues her important work into the 21st century. Please check them out… They’ve got a blog, multi-media page with music, videos, and podcasts, volunteer opportunities, and could really put your tax-deductible donations to fantastic work here in Oakland.

Ella Baker Center Mural

Green Jobs Mural in Oakland

The murals were created in 2007 through the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center based in San Francisco, with funding from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Artists include: Fred Alvarado, Eli Lipppert, Gerry Chow, Anna Szumowski, Ronnie Freeman, and others.

Ella Baker Center Mural Artists

Friday the 13th – Mystery Mojo

Ok… so I had no idea what I was going to write about today. I was racking my brain last night… another mural? an essay on gentrification? I was stumped.

And then out of nowhere… I found THIS. I saw it from the corner of my eye and thought “What’s that?” As I stepped closer I found this lovely little creature in red with his/her fantastic aura of twigs & sticks… then I noticed the inscription in stone underneath. West Oakland Home. Which I found fascinating, because West Oakland is my home, however I did not find this in West Oakland. Very strange.

Mystery Mojo

Check out the magic charm at his base… a stone with four screws (presumably representing North, South, East, and West) all meticulously wrapped in blood red thread. This was some serious mojo.

stone with red thread and screws

I walked past the creature and came upon the weirdest and most fantastic pile of stuff… it was only then that I realized I was standing in the middle of a very deliberately created sacred space. The centerpiece is below… constructed out of a hundred or more hand sewn dolls with beautiful individual beads for eyes and mouths, all laid out in a circle.

Voodoo Magic

Voodoo Magic

Mystery Mojo

Inside this circle was an interior circle constructed out of chunks of wood, and inside this two guardians flanked an intricate metal lantern, a red-feathered arrow stuck into the ground, and a dish of offerings. The “dish” was constructed out of a knarled piece of wood… resting in it, a necklace of the cross, beads, kernels of corn, and tobacco leaves.

African Statues

red feathered arrow

Spiritual Offerings

I was fascinated! The fact that someone would create such an elaborate display in a public place. And then leave it. I was also a little bit nervous. Was it ok to be standing inside this space? Would I somehow be desecrating it by walking upon it? I have no idea how this voodoo magic stuff works. I tried to be respectful and appreciative.

It was then that I noticed the masks. The installation was set in a large rectangular plot of land… the red creature from the first photo marked the entrance. At each corner of the plot was a unique and unbelievably beautiful mask. One had a tag that said it was handcrafted in Ghana, carved out of a single piece of wood, and designed to “radiate the magic of Africa.” These two were my favorites…

North and South

This one was West…

African Mask

South…

African Mask from Ghana

East…

African Mask

And North…

African Mask

I gave a nod of gratitude to each of these masks and to the four corners of our planet. It seemed like the thing to do. If anyone knows anything about casting spells or spiritual rituals of this sort, I would love more information. I am in awe of this beautiful gift of art.

Happy Friday the 13th everyone. May the mojo move you!

Compound Studios & Gallery

So our next stop on our Art Murmur crawl was just next door to blankspace, at the Compound Gallery & Studios. A much larger space, Compound is home not only to multiple gallery spaces, but 10 artist studios as well, all fully booked. The space was opened by a husband and wife artists Matt and Lena Reynoso in 2008.  You may remember Matt’s name from my very first post… the Suits & Soldiers mural on the Emeryville border.  I’m hoping to have an Artist Interview with him soon. Also his wife Lena has a fantastic website called Curator of Oddities, and she really does have an odd, but fantastic, collection of work… everything from presidential paintings, to gorgeous graphic silk-screened posters, to random expositions on American folklore.  Very cool.

Compound Studios & Gallery

The primary installation in their main gallery is an interesting 3 dimensional landscape of sculptural pieces entitled 3AM: Under the Full Moon, by Christopher Romer. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of this exhibit as it was quite crowded when we arrived, but you can see a slew of pictures on Compound’s home page.  You’ll also find a wonderful write-up of the show there, which is more than you’ll get here, as I am, for all intents and purposes, sculpturally illiterate.

I felt a bit more at home in the adjacent gallery space, the Swee(t)Art Drawing Gallery, also part of Compound. The exhibit there was mostly two-dimensional (more my comfort zone), entitled “The Worship of Water,” curated by Obi Kaufmann and featuring works by several artists.  Here are two pieces by Savanna Snow

The Worship of Water

And below are works of Shannon Ingraham (I think)… forgive me, but this was a quick tour as I was late to meet friends in the city for Devo. Yes, that’s right, Devo. They rocked.

oaktownart_20091110_2

One of the cool things about visiting this gallery is that many of the artists’ studios are open to the public as well. We were able to walk through many of the spaces and view creative works in progress…

Another thing this studio/gallery/artist crew does is a really cool subscription service called Art in a Box. For a very reasonable monthly fee ($30 – $50), you receive one new work of fine art each month, in a box. You can specify preferred medium if you like, or just keep it a surprise.  Either way, you’ll be enriching your personal fine art collection, while supporting local artists… over 20 currently participating.  And this service has been so successful in fact, the Compound is seeking out new artists to participate.  You can see their Call to Artists on their Facebook page. Check it out!

Blankspace – This Is Not My Beautiful Life

So last Friday was another “First Friday” here in Oakland, and friends and I did an abbreviated gallery crawl this month, hitting two of the three galleries in the Golden Gate district of OaklandDidn’t know there was a Golden Gate district in Oakland?!? It was recent news to me too, but this tiny Oakland outcropping, stretching just north and east of Emeryville and just south of Berkeley, has apparently gone by this name since the late 1800’s.  The area was originally developed as the town of Klinknerville in 1885, changed it’s name to Golden Gate in 1888 (smart move), and was annexed to Oakland in 1897 [Wikipedia].

After drinks at Kitty’s, we made our way to blankspace gallery located at 66th Street and San Pablo. The contemporary art space consists of one main gallery room with a smaller gallery shop off to the right when you first enter, filled with small-scale affordable local artists’ wares. The space was first redeveloped from an old Bait & Tackle shop (I love that the old sign still exists) and was originally launched as Lucky Tackle gallery by Jason Byers back in 2002.  He now co-directs the space with Kerri Johnson.

Blankspace Gallery

The exhibit this month (opening reception was in late October) is titled This Is Not My Beautiful Life, an interesting twist on the Talking Heads’ song “Once in a Lifetime” written by David Byrne…

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

oaktownart_20091109_2

Two artists (Michael Hall and Daniel Healey) shared the gallery, each with entirely different styles and techniques, but both focused on themes of “history, domesticity, and narrative.”

Healey’s pieces were rather large but meticulously constructed out of tiny collage bits, most originating from vintage magazines and other historical materials (though he was quite secretive about his process!) Some of the tiny elements could easily be recognized as home wares from some type of catalog, perhaps an old Sears & Roebuck… shelving, handtrucks, etc. Yet many were harder to identify, and some even had a tissue paper translucency to them that was quite beautiful when layered.

oaktownart_20091109_3

oaktownart_20091109_4

I love this image above, because these patrons look perplexed… one literally scratching his head, trying to figure out how and out of what were these constructed, what they now represent, and most importantly, what does it mean?!

My friends debated the perspective from which to view these images. Some saw them as maps of a sort, as though viewed from the sky above…. landmasses jutting out into an abyss of some greater homogeneous body. I preferred to view them from my feet-planted-on-the-ground perspective, and to me they looked like fantastical creatures, blob-like with arms and heads and claws protruding. Here is another…

oaktownart_20091109_5

Michael Hall’s pieces also begin with vintage photographs, though his work is more interested in the historical narratives found within. His canvasses were more traditional paintings than Healey’s, but the incorporation of elements such as date stamping, square formatting, and borders, gave clues to the photographic origination of the images.

oaktownart_20091109_6

I am sorry that I don’t have more photos of his work here… my representation is not particularly balanced as each artist occupied half the gallery space. Please note it is no indication of preference… I found the subtle palettes and quite moments of Hall’s imagery lovely, and a perfect contrast to the vibrant chaos of Healey’s.  The show is up until November 15th… you can go see for yourself.

Tomorrow we go to our second stop of the night… Compound Gallery & Studios.

Mountain View Cemetery…

One of my favorite things to do, and an appropriately spooky outing for this Halloween, is to visit Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue. It’s a gorgeous piece of prime Oakland real estate, nestled against and stretching into the hills with stunning views of the entire Bay Area… nevermind that it’s full of dead people.

Because it’s also chock full of incredible art & architecture, not to mention a ton of local history.  It’s here that you can read about the Merritts (former mayor of Oakland Samuel Merritt, after whom Lake Merritt was named) and the Crockers (railroad builder Charles Crocker, namesake to Crocker Highlands) and a slew of other politicians, philanthropists, shipmasters, and businesspersons who helped shape this city.

The cemetery comprises over 220 acres containing, chapels, columbariums, crematoriums, mausoleums, and traditional graves, all amidst a breathtaking park-like setting that frequently draws hikers, bikers, a picnickers alike.  It always makes me smile to see a family stretched out, enjoying an afternoon lunch in the midst of the graves.

Founded in 1863, the park was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape design, and designer of many urban parks including Central Park in New York City. Part of what makes Mountain View unique from other cemeteries is this park-like design, which grew out of his integrated “vision of man and nature and their relationship to each other.”

Mountain View Cemetery Statues

Mountain View Cemetery Sculpture

There are fantastic examples of sculptural work in stone, concrete, and metal. I love this bronze angel…

Bronze Angel

Mountain View Cemetery

Bronze Sculpture

These next two crypts are from “Millionaires’ Row”… The one on the right is the Crocker crypt – I like to call it the giant penis. I’m sure he didn’t have a complex… um, right.

Millionaires' Row

Mountain View Cemetery Sphynx

Mountain View Cemetery

Mountain View Cemetery Lambs

Lots of angels…

Mountain View Cemetery Angels

Mountain View Cemetery Angel

Gravestones at Sunset

Mountain View Cemetery

Below is the view of San Francisco from the top…

View of San Francisco

The cemetery is open to the public everyday during daylight hours. Run by a nonsectarian, non-profit association, free docent tours are available the second and fourth Saturdays of each month starting at 10am.

Adam5100 & Rowan Morrison

Remember the hand stencil from SF Shout Out! the other day? Here’s the Oaktown version…

oaktownart_20091029_1

It’s actually two hands… can you see that?

oaktownart_20091029_2

I did a little research and found out (thanks to the gracious folks at Rowan Morrison, exterior pictured below) that the artist responsible is Adam5100. He’s a CCAC (now CCA) graduate who channeled his graffiti skills into more formal printmaking techniques there. He’s known for his use of complex multi-layered stencils, typically applied on canvas rather than concrete. If you check out his website, you’ll get the idea… it’s amazing these images are created with stencils! Here are a couple of my favs:
http://www.adam5100.com/display_image.php?image=36
http://www.adam5100.com/display_image.php?image=35

oaktownart_20091029_3

He installed “the hand” on the side of Rowan Morrison’s building in June of 2008 in conjunction with a solo show there, entitled “The Heart Vs. The Mind in a Fight to the Finish”. I love that! Here are a couple snaps of the process, provided by Rowan Morrison (more on them further down this post… )

adam-mural1

adam-mural3

He currently is exhibiting at White Walls in San Francisco for their exhibit, The Stencil Show which is up until 11/7, and also has a piece in London’s Stolen Space Gallery as part of local boys Green Day‘s commissioned pieces designated to accompany their new album 21st Century Breakdown. This guy is prolific!

And I found this great video of him doing a tiny stencil… basically a trailer for the solo show at RM. It’s only a minute long… you have to check this out!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAsqQWNkTTo

Now to Rowan Morrison… I hope you’re still with me, because this is a cool space. They’re located on 40th street near Broadway and have limited hours, but you can check them out on Fridays & Saturdays between 11am-6pm, or by special appointment. Run by husband and wife artists Pete Glover & Narangkar Glover (also CCA graduates), RM is a gallery/bookstore specializing in artist books, home grown ‘zines and special edition prints. They’ve got a great space for perusing these items in person, but if you’re more virtually inclined, they have an online store and a great blog about art books.  Please check them out.

And if you happen to make your way there… you can grab a bite to eat at Mama’s Royal Cafe just around the corner on Broadway.  I’ll probably do a whole post about Mama’s sometime in the future because it’s certainly worthy (full of funky art and fantastic food) and is simply one of my all-time oakland favs…  In the meantime, I’ll simply say, “It’s the best!

Oh… one last thing.  We’re headed to the cemetery tomorrow… mwa ha ha haaaa!