This summer I was asked to create a commissioned work for the lobby of the historic IMagnin Building in downtown Oakland. The building was erected in 1931 and designed by architecture firm Weeks and Day. It housed an upscale department store until it closed in 1995. It is an amazingly beautiful green marble art deco building and an official historic Oakland structure. It was recently renovated and as per the renovation I was asked to create a piece for its lobby. Having been a part of the Bay Area and specifically Oakland off and on for the last 12 years I was honored to be asked to do this. The only request was that the piece reflect a vision of Oakland by way of an intimate relationship with this city. I chose to explore this task with a style of found wood assemblage that at one point of my career I was very much known for. A style which I have been slowly re-immersing myself in, thus this was absolutely perfect timing. In this series of blog posts I will go more in depth and explain the project further, my process, my feelings on it, how it came together, the narrative behind, and its installation.
In this first post, it is important to note that as the city of Oakland is developed at an extremely fast pace, as people are displaced and old dwellings torn down in the name of progress, I find it vital to work to save aspect of this physical come metaphysical history from being destroyed and forgotten or lost in the attention deficit short term memory of our accelerated culture. The beginning of this project was a practice in communicating, in listening to the street and letting the city guide me in the collection and discovery of cast away pieces of wood from many different areas. Thus creating a real time based narrative tapestry of tangible objects packed with stories, spirit, energy, and a vibrant history that will continue to transmit its truth from the lobby of the IMagnin building well into the future for Oaklanders new and old to reflect on and investigate. The act of gratitude and humility in turning to this living breathing place steeped in history accepting it’s direction and guidance is one of the most felt experience I get to have as an artist. It is a true conversation with time and my surroundings. To be set on a path to explore and give thanks for those things left behind that are there waiting to be repurposed and given a new place to continue to inspire us is really an honor and something that I do take as a gift. This city has so much to say and this process allows me to hear so much of it and honor that language.
In the next post I will speak more on the construction of the panels and the dialogue felt with the materials as well as how the studio came to be utilized and more of the intuitive and intellectual process of creating the work one step at a time… stay tuned and thank you for reading.