Tag Archives: west oakland

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.

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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.

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Put on a happy face

I got a new sticker yesterday on my speed bump post outside.  And it made me happy on a day when not many happy things happened.  No sir-ee.  But I did get this cool sticker.  And I did see a huge rainbow retreating eastward as I cycled down 32nd street in the rain.  It made me smile.  In fact, it made me want to yell out to everyone I passed, “Hey!  Do you see that awesome rainbow?!?” But I didn’t.  I’m a dork.

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p.s. – back to the gardens tomorrow…

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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