Tag Archives: painting

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…

día de los muertos festival

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!

super slide

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.

ivan rubio paintings

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…

oaktownart_20091026_1b

oaktownart_20091026_2b

oaktownart_20091026_3

oaktownart_20091026_dtl1

oaktownart_20091026_dtl2

oaktownart_20091026_13

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.

oaktownart_20091026_8

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!

oaktownart_20091026_10

oaktownart_20091026_dtl3

oaktownart_20091026_14

stay punk

So I’ve been wed to my bike these last few days because it just so happens that someone made off with my car in the wee hours of the night Sunday night (yes, Oakland does have some problems… but I prefer to focus on the positive).  It hasn’t yet turned up, and may not (sorry Mom!) so in the meantime, I continue to ride.  Which to be honest, when appropriate, is a far superior way to travel.  It’s healthy, non-polluting, low-cost, and helps connect residents with their communities by getting them out of the cars that separate them from the world around them.  Remember Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I do.

It’s kind of ironic because I was just blathering on and on about all the bicyclists and cycle commuting in Amsterdam and how fantastic it is, and then I come home and someone makes off with my car.  Hmmm.  I said that the universe provides (see Magic Bus post)… what I forgot to say, is be careful what you ask for.

In any case, the City of Oakland is taking great strides to make our city more bicycle friendly, and it is all happening now.  In the past ten years the city has added over 900 bike racks and 87 miles of bicycle lanes and routes.  What’s the difference between a lane and a route you ask? Or a bicycle “path” for that matter (which is another unique designation).  Check out Oakland Public Works’ website where you can read all about them.

And there’s a great little newsletter that comes out quarterly called “I [bicycle] Oakland” which provides the latest information about all things bike related, and how the city is doing with respect to implementing the objectives of its Bicycle Master Plan (2007), which include more than doubling the total current mileage of bicycle friendly byways within the city.

According to this document, 85% of all Oakland residents live within two miles of downtown or a major transit station… which basically equates to a relatively short trip on the bike.  The thing that holds most people back is the lack of safe bikeways…. so that’s where Oakland is putting most of its focus.

As I was riding yesterday, I spotted this piece…  I never would have seen it if I was in my car.

oaktownart_20091022_1

oaktownart_20091022_2

I recognized the work because this artist had done a similar piece on a building in my neighborhood. The owner promptly painted over it, but not before I got the pic below…
Kind of creepy, but kind of cool. And definitely punk.

oaktownart_20091022_3

ART INTERVIEW: Mark Bode

Hey kids… so I kind of wrote a lot yesterday, eh?  And this here post is even longer, twice as long in fact.  My dear friend who knows of these things says the average blog post should be 250 words… no more, no less.  This interview clocks in at more than 5 times that!  So I’m going to take a bit of a breather… take the weekend off, give you folks a chance to catch up.  Plus I’m going to see bluegrass! Have a great weekend and I’ll see ya’ll next week…

P.S. – all photos (except last) courtesy of Mark Bode

First Mark, let me thank you for bringing your artwork to West Oakland! When we met briefly a few weeks ago while you were working on the Nymphs mural. I hope it’s ok that I call it this… does it have a real name?

I refer to it as the Forest Fairy mural.  It was inspired by my friends who are amazing artists from Brazil who call themselves Os Gêmeos, which means “The Twins” in Portuguese. They are simply amazing artists and they visited me recently for the first time.

You mentioned that you had been part of a similar mural project in the mission district of San Francisco.  Can you talk a bit about that?

I was a part of The Lilac Street Project between 24th and 25th and Mission.  It’s an alley way behind Mission street where the tagging and activities there had become seedy and out of control. So a group of artists and a very savvy couple by the names of Randolph Bose and Lisa Brewer spearheaded the transformation with mural work.  And it worked like a charm.

As the artists completed the murals, more and more tourists came through to photograph them, transforming the alley into a tourist attraction which actively stopped the tagging and caused the seedy activity to move elsewhere.  Amazing!  The owners of the property were very happy for their decision and it was a positive thing for the neighborhood. Overall there were around a dozen local and international artists that contributed to the cause. The artists were taken care of with grant money from the efforts of Randolph and Lisa.

oaktownart_20091002_1

oaktownart_20091002_2

Did your experience with the Mission project influence you in wanting to do something in West Oakland?  Why West Oakland?

Of course! I went to The Arts School at Peralta High School on Peralta Street around 1977. Now one of my art school teachers Kathryn Porter owns property in the area, and at a recent high school reunion at that location I told Kathryn I would love to do some mural work in the spot where my friends and I first started doing art. And she agreed.

More times than not people TALK, but don’t do the WALK. I followed up and did the walk, maybe partially because of my teacher and partially because I met my life long friends there and felt I owed something to the neighborhood.  Thus the Peralta Street Project was born… we will see if the city of Oakland agrees.

What I love about these murals is their juxtaposition to the immediate neighborhood that can, at times, feel very bleak.  There are boarded up houses nearby, industrial warehouses, the nearby recycling plant that draws many disadvantaged locals pushing their shopping carts full of bottles and cans.  It can be a little depresssing.  But these murals are beautiful, and very serene I think.  The asian woman with her hair and the ribbons behind her flowing in the wind, and the nymphs with their delicate wings, bathing in the mystical pools.  Can you talk about why you chose these images specifically?

I only know that I have images that make me feel a certain way that I want to paint. I don’t have a political agenda and I don’t want to preach to the people who live in the area.  Just positive imagery. And what I want to paint is my motivation, I have infinite images I want to paint… I’m not sure what spurs it.  I want to keep going but I can’t fund the work on inspiration alone as I have a living to make and must move on…

Are the characters from some of your comics?

No , this is from another place. Comics are tedious and small.  Sometimes I have an urge to go big with imagery and use my whole body to convey an image I might have. I must go big before I am too old to do so.

And what does the lettering behind the asian woman say?

It’s Japanese…  it says DREAM and LOVE. Maybe not in that order, but it doesn’t matter. Alot of street artists make their pieces hard to decipher  and it becomes a code between individuals.. I feel if we start utilizing each other’s languages in the same pieces it may be that we can relate and communicate to each other through that other language,  much like music and how it is a universal code.

oaktownart_20091002_3

oaktownart_20091002_4

I asked another muralist about the distinction between graffiti “art” and a lot of the tags I see that don’t seem to require any real skill.  Do you see this distinction?

Tagging can be a form of urban art or a territorial thing… in most cases it is an eye sore and is much need of a face lift. If I tag for instance I always put an image with my tag, maybe a beautiful woman or a character that says this is who I am, and I made this spot interesting. Not all will agree. I think taggers should use their flow in a positive way and show they can beautify and not destruct or destroy public property, even if it’s mundane and sterile at times.

In fact, I noticed you had to come back and clean up a couple of these tags on one of your murals.  Is it difficult to see your work altered?  Or is that just part of the whole street art thing?

It can make you angry if taggers go over such wonderful things and start a war of mind and thought, “Why did they do this?  Why can’t they see the positive thing we are doing for the very same neighborhood they live in?”  Well, I know in most cases that a true street artist will have respect for what the artist has done and won’t deface it. Sometimes there is a situation where a young person feels empowered by the act.  For me,  I love doing the piece and I just get to work on it more if I have to touch it up. I was, in an off-handed way, glad to return to the piece.  But that attitude is rare… I don’t make beef, I just wonder “why deface a positive to the hood?”

Are there any “rules” about altering other artists’ works?

If it is a spot that is permanent then yes we have a rule.  Like Peralta, I am trying to make a more colorful place for people to live in.  If someone has a different vision, we should work with them.  But if they are defacing our work there is a social or economic problem that is deeper than the imagery.  Maybe they need a hug!!!

It seems one of the great things about street art is that you have exposure to a much broader audience than people who would typically know of your work (comic book fans, graf artists, etc.)  What do you hope the random passerby takes away from his/her experience of these paintings?

It already happened while the piece was being created…  I teared up when a homeless person looked up and said “I love her” and smiled.  That is worth every moment, and I heard that multiple times during the creation of the Maki piece. People love her and it makes them feel a good feeling as they do their daily grind, whatever that may be.  Ill do it again in a second if I can..

What are your plans for future murals in the neighborhood?  You mentioned working with the folks at Custom Alloy Recycling.  Any movement there?

We will see what happens there… they seem receptive. I hope the art will prevail and we can cheer up West Oakland and the bay area with ART!

And lastly, if folks want to get involved and help out with your next mural, is that possible?  If so, how should they contact you?

I always work 3 days a week at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley and I’m always receptive to new artists.  So contact me and I will surely direct you as best I can.
www.markbode.com

Thanks for your time Mark.  And thanks for bringing your positive energy to West Oakland.

oaktownart_20091002_5

oaktownart_20091002_6

oaktownart_20090914

Delightful and Disturbing

Wow… so yesterday was a bit controversial… on a couple levels.  That’s GOOD.

First, we got reprimanded for promoting illegal activity (and even making fun of the ways to not get caught… which I still think is hilarious).  Let me say here in public, what I also wrote directly to this commenter, who since, retracted his comment of critique and offered up a more positive response…

My goal here is to promote ART. Both the conventional (legal, publicly condoned/sanctioned) and the unconventional (which yes, at times, can be illegal).  I am not a proponent of altering or defacing private (or public for that matter) property without permission.  That’s ME… those are my values. For the most part, I believe the laws enacted by our representative government are designed for the benefit of society at large.  Though there have certainly been many mistakes along the way… we learn as we go.  I also said in a past post (see There Are Laws About These Things…) that I believe it’s up to each artist to decide for him/herself what is acceptable behavior, and what risks are willing to be undertaken.

We live in a society based upon liberty.  And the First Amendment to our Constitution (its position at the top of the list indicates its primary importance) guarantees us all the rights of free speech.  Yes, this can be interpreted in a mind boggling number of ways, exampled by the current legal challenges to campaign finance reform (who knew money was speech?!?)  But I would argue, and I’m sure others have too, that displays of art can be considered speech as well.

This doesn’t give the artist the right to deface another individual’s property… that person has guaranteed rights as well.  But it does guarantee the artist the right to display his message (his speech) somewhere.  And here is my beef… we’ve left few public spaces for the artists.

We’ve got plenty of abandoned, dilapidated properties in this city that certainly aren’t being tended to by their owners.  Artists take advantage of these sites because they have few other options if they want to display their art publicly, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.  If kids are running around w/ paint, chalk, posters, and wheatpaste in an effort to be creative, isn’t that a hell of a lot better than running around with guns and drugs?

Let’s find ways to support their creativity… channel it in positive ways, eh?  Some cities have designed skate parks for skateboarders… can’t we set aside Art parks for Artists? I personally think this would be way cool.  And a magnet, not just for artists, but art patrons and tourists alike.  My upcoming interview with Mark Bode talks about just such a project in San Francisco.  Check back soon for that…

The second controversy from yesterday’s post involved the content of the images.  A friend of mine said she found the newsprint photographs of what I assume are developmentally challenged individuals, disturbing.

I believe there is plenty of great art that can (and is designed to) delight us.  That’s one function. But there are other functions as well, and sometimes the best art, the kind that moves society forward in new ways of thinking, is, well… disturbing.

I’m not saying the wheat pastes from yesterday fall into that category… maybe they do, maybe they don’t.  What I am saying is that we can choose to live in a sanitized world where we are spared from disturbing imagery (think of the Bush era’s manipulation of the media to prevent us from seeing any of the deceased soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan).  Or we can live in a world where we confront reality… disturbing as it may be at times.

Having said all that, today I will delight you with something I think few would find controversial.  It’s another pet hospital mural by our friend Stefen from Land of the Sky Blue Waters.  It’s titled “Promenade at Lake Merrit” and was created in 2004, and dedicated to the protection of Lake Merritt in 2005.  Enjoy…

oaktownart_20091001_1

oaktownart_20091001_2oaktownart_20091001_dtl

Magic Bus

Hey everybody… so I don’t really have a theme this week. I think I’m just gonna go a little stream-of-consciousness on y’all. Free things up a bit. Get a little bit random…

Yesterday I was on my way back from a small photoshoot for Oakland magazine, when I spotted a couple graffiti murals out of the corner of my eye. I circled back to get a closer look and passed this wild ride on my way…

oaktownart_20090929_1

I had just been thinking, literally the day before (while posting my modified truck w/ diamond plated flames), “where have all the art cars gone?” I feel like you used to be able to see them all the time, but lately I haven’t seen as many. Then, BOOM! This gem.

The universe provides, people.
Don’t forget it.

oaktownart_20090929_2

oaktownart_20090929_3

This baby’s got it all… Yellow Submarine, Ziggy Stardust, My Little Pony, Mr. Potato Head, and more. And why the hell not?? Let’s all get a little bit random! (SOV)

oaktownart_20090929_dtl

oaktownart_20090929_4

Nymphs

Or fairies if you prefer… but nymphs is far more fun to say.  Try it.

[nimfs]

See what I mean?

Here’s the finished product…  I think they did this all in one day.  Pretty cool, eh?

oaktownart_20090916_1

oaktownart_20090916_2

I talked to Mark Bode for a few minutes while he worked. He hopes to produce more murals in the neighborhood by coordinating with local property owners, including the big recycling plant on Peralta (Custom Alloy). I’m hoping to do a more in depth interview with him in the future.

Until then, thank you Bode!