Check Out Your Neighbor’s Art—Round 2
on June 15, 2009
For someone like me who does not have a car and has never driven, choosing a route to explore Oakland’s art scene was difficult. I decided to focus on art galleries along Telegraph Avenue. It turned out that Oakland is a walker-friendly art city.
I started out from The Warehouse at 416 26 St. where I was greeted by Jana Grover‘s Broken Mind series. If there had not been an artist’s name nearby, I might have thought they were done by a male painter. The color and the use of materials offer a powerful message.
For a Broken Mind V, Grover uses audio tape to represent a male brain The vinyl tape hangs across and down the painting creating a sense of an active, unsettled brain. It’s direct, honest and disturbing.
“Often the work is powerful and it may not go with your couch,” Grover said.
Next to Grover’s work was Kate Buckelew‘s mixed media painting. Her work is like pop-art wrapping paper with vivid colors.
However, I had a hard time figuring out what her Nude with Basketballs was about. But that was exactly what Buckelew was trying to achieve.
“I let people interpret my work the way they want,” said Buckelew, who used to do abstract paintings.
They are still perplexing. But I was comfortable with her enigmatic work, because she uses common motifs such as eggs and clouds that help with associations.
After experiencing works from two modern and abstract painters, I was relieved to see Sally Landis‘s Above Timberline, in which she draws the southern Sierra Mountains. Landis, a backpacking lover until she hurt her knees, knows how to reproduce the vivid color of the mountains. She sketches the line of the mountains from photos and then adds color to enhance their beauty. “Photography is terrible, it sometimes misses the contrast of the shadow,” said Landis.
I liked her piece that portrayed the Sierra Mountains in late afternoon. I never associated mountains with blue, but the color generated sharp and effective contrasts of sunlight and shadow.
The morning version of the same painting is currently hanging in the Yosemite Museum. Landis said that a man, who saw the morning version at the museum came and bought the afternoon version.”He was sitting in a sofa, seeing the picture for an hour. It was a good surprise at this economic time,” Landis said.
In the next booth, I encountered the Surréalisme of William Stoneham. His art work is highly political and full of anger in a cynical off-handed manner.
With Voodoo Economics, he criticizes the gap between rich and poor.
Complication attacks the idea that human beings try to pretty themselves up and without knowing it, poison the body. The work portrays a mutated woman who has gone through a series of cosmetic surgeries.
His personal side comes through in Oedipal Totem 2. This work is about Stoneham and draws a family portrait.
“I always thought I might have had a different view, if I was raised by my biological parents,”said Stoneham, who was adopted when he was a child.
A boy’s face in Oedipal Totem 2 peers through a curved wood chunk. It conveys a vulnerability and sweetness to the otherwise cynical world of William Stoneham.
Across the street from the Warehouse was the Uptown gallery, which hosted 16 artists. My favorite was Julie Bernstein. I was struck by the delicate but beautiful texture of her watercolors. However, the portraits are neither too delicate or weak. The eyes caught my attention. They pierced my heart.
I needed some air.
I walked down Telegraph about 15 minutes. I found a well-lighted picture frame shop Kuhl Frames+Art, which hosted Lisa Beerstsen and Tony Speirs. Even though their work was completely different in theme and composition, shown together they created a comfortable and nostalgic ambiance.
Lisa Beerntsen draws abstracts of her garden in Sonoma County. Her work gives out lots of yellow light and an idea of what her garden looks like. They gave me the sense I was picnicking on a river bank.
On the other side of the wall, her partner’s paintings made me nostalgic for Japan, my home country. Speirs uses a lot of images from 1930′ and 1940’s comics and cartoons from Asia.
However, one has to be careful when looking at his work because his seemingly harmless paintings carry political messages.
With Lucky Lady he portrays war. A cute tear drop shaped character represents oil and points to the alluring legs of the lucky lady. It gives us a sense of World War II when soldiers used pinup girls to weather the hard times.
Speirs also uses Islamic symbols on the left side of the picture.
“The world is getting smaller, and it is not all about America, I wanted to show my world view in a playful way,” Speirs said.
I found a piece of trendy Oakland at Laney studio at 11 10th St, which hosted more than 20 artists.
I was drawn into a colorful composition of Mike Kimball’s world. He reproduced the Port of Oakland in a funky way. With his New Oakland Port Prints, Kinball transformed the cold and insipid landscape of the port into vivid, hip and playful art evoking the sense of children’s blocks.
I really liked his use of color in Meditations on a Port.
Kimball turned even the port containers into a piece of art that at first glance reminded me of a book on the shelf of an East Coast mansion. The color was dark orange, green, and gray, giving an old and heavy sense.
Kimball uses about 20 plates to add texture to each layer and create a 3D image of the containers. He even incorporated his signature, MK, as if it were a label of the container.
After Laney Studio, I walked down to 201 3rd st., where my mind found peace. Tamara White’s art work is, in a way, a history book.
In Freedom, she tells the story of Rosa Parks. “I would like to be remembered as a person…,” said Parks and White places the famous quote in the painting of an American flag. Her history is woven into the canvas with non-text and text materials such as finger prints, and the bus number in which Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person.
In Peace, White tells the story of Jane Adams, a pioneer of social work and Nobel Peace laureate who founded the U.S. Settlement House movement. Next to a quote, “Newer Ideals of Peace,” White places an article about Adams, and her date of birth and death.
The creme colored canvas is turned into a biography of Jane Adams.
With White’s art works, I wrapped up the art tour in Oakland. What I discovered about the Oakland art scene is that it offers a healthy solution for recession entertainment. Walking around the city and exposing myself to the diverse art was an affordable and stimulating way to spend a weekend.
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