Tag Archives: sculpture

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!

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

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.

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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Metalmania in E-ville…

The incredibly ornate and decorative metalwork on this building has mystified me for years.  I now know that the man responsible is Daryl Rush.  He is a builder/contractor/magician with metal.

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What I love about his style is how organic it is… check out the copper “vines” on these windows… Are these not the coolest security bars you’ve ever seen?!?

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And he works with a wide variety of metals, unlike the pieces we saw earlier in the week that were mostly made out of steel and hence, have rusted uniformly. Daryl mixes copper, bronze, steel, and stainless, and plays with texture, grinding and polishing some areas smooth and shiny, while hammering patterns reminiscent of carved wood or chipped stone into others.

oaktownart_20090925_3

So as you may have noticed from the title of this post, this workshop is actually in Emeryville, but just a stone’s throw from the Oakland border, literally (I’ve got a good arm). Note the soldier on the corner of the building in this shot… recognize it? This is the Suits & Soldiers mural from my first post, and I’ve since connected with the artist and will be posting my first artist interview in the next week or two. Please check back!

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This last one is the back door to his workshop, a truly incredible piece of sculptural art. It’s hand-formed out of three kinds of metal with slumped glass incorporated (the green areas). See more detailed photos here. All I can say is, “WOW!”

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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