I am working on a huge commission right now. I have been involved with making art in the Bay Area and specifically the East Bay for large portions of the last 8 years. Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond and Albany all share a certain groundedness, a certain low fi hum that rattles on into the sunset from the tail pipes of bikers, from the rumble of candy colored raised cars sitting on oversized rims with big sounds, and from the conversations of intelligent soulful creatives that have utilized so many spaces for dialogues of wild intelligence and creative union. This landscape of beautiful blocks inhabited by brilliant minds and hearts creating style, dialect, art and sounds, manifestos, awareness, hustling, and letting sparks fly from big hulking iron sculptures is slowly (or quickly) giving way to a salivating pack of development harbingers lapping at their doors. Some will stay and prosper and profit, most will leave not able to “buy into” the dream which they helped build, some will hunker down and fight the tide, some will always float along under the surface informing the life blood of this place, and some will rise up and grow to new heights either in the Bay or somewhere else and expand on all that they have been a part of here.
I get to be in a moment right now where I document this in the same way I have been documenting life for years. I get to create a work found in the streets and alleys, from old decrepit abandoned Victorians, and empty lots where nature is taking back its bounty, old decommissioned dope spots, and burned out buildings of this great expanse of cultures colliding. I get to paint a portrait as I have come to see this place and touch it and feel it. I get to breathe in the rusted metal of the train tracks with their perfume of tar and dirt, feel the dried vines atop fence posts dating back to horse drawn buggy times, and draw on drawers that were scribbled in pure fits of emotion by children with crayons from desks in old houses long gone.
I do not call this nostalgia, for much of this time I was not here, not even alive for. I call this gratitude. I call this responsibility. I call this a calling. I feel the cool clean air in my veins sometimes when I am away. But then when I breathe in the overpasses as the BART soars by amidst the shriek of cars over head, as a man pulls up to walk into a park on 34th st for a fix, a couple with shredded black t-shirts and band insignias and a pit bull stroll by making way for a group of kids on bright colored scraper bikes, and a woman walks by with her head held high smelling so powerfully amazing as her dreadlocks part the air with a perfumed confidence and the sun soaks into her skin unrivaled by the Gods themselves, I know where I am.
I am in pure gratitude to share a visual love note with this place, made of this place. I can say similar things for other places i have been, but right now, this is all there is.