Public Art Spotlight: Cliff Garten
Posted by BG Staff // July 28th, 2016
Cliff Garten, Liliales, 2016, stainless steel, anodized aluminum and LED lights, 12 x 28 feet
With new shops popping up downtown this year, Walnut Creek’s shopping district is rapidly becoming a hot Bay Area retail destination. True to the city’s mission of enhancing business and community, Broadway Plaza visitors will now be greeted with a beautiful new work of public art as they enter the S. Broadway parking garage – Cliff Garten’s Liliales. The installation’s aluminum and steel mesh form lines in a delicate, abstract floral motif, referencing two flowers essential to the lives of the area’s original inhabitants, the Volvons, one of the early Bay Miwok tribes based around Mt. Diablo.
Award-winning, California-based artist Cliff Garten is well-known for his large-scale, site-specific public installations and sculptures, often bringing public and private realms together and connecting past histories and cultures with the present. Many of his works incorporate space, landscape, and light, as with his other work in the city’s collection, the Walnut Creek Veterans’ Memorial. Liliales also features LED lights which illuminate the piece at night, changing colors with the seasons and giving viewers a unique look from every angle.
Liliales installation in process this spring.
Liliales will be a new downtown stop this fall on one of our monthly docent-led public art walking tours, so join us and learn more about this exciting new addition to the city’s incredible public art collection!
FLUX at Bedford Gallery
Posted by BG Staff // July 21st, 2016
With a large-scale, site-specific installation like FLUX, the process of creating the piece is an integral part of the artwork itself. Exhibition artist Crystal Wagner and a crew of four spent nearly two weeks, working 12-14 hours each day, building FLUX. Utilizing the Bedford’s signature architecture and dual skylights, FLUX transforms the gallery into an installation that calls out to viewers to get in, move around, and tap into your inner explorer. Let the art “climb over you!”
Learn more about Crystal’s process, her inspirations, and watch as FLUX takes shape at the Bedford in this great video from Walnut Creek TV:
For more videos from Walnut Creek TV, check out their YouTube channel.
Shop + Art: Local Art at Neiman Marcus
Posted by BG Staff // July 14th, 2016
You expect to see high-end designer clothes when you walk into Neiman Marcus, but a curated, local art collection is a pleasant surprise.
Stanley Marcus (son of the store’s founder) started the collection in 1951 with a commissioned mobile by Alexander Calder, and it has since grown to include a mix of “beautiful, entertaining and thought-provoking” artworks in over 40 of their department stores. Julie Kronick has been working with the store since 1990 and is the curator of the collection, often commissioning pieces for each store by local artists. By the time the Walnut Creek location opened its doors in 2012, Kronick had spent months working closely with art advisors and artists to assemble the shop’s colorful collection of paintings, sculptures, and other mixed media. Most of the Walnut Creek store's approximately 163 artworks are from Bay Area artists.
Here are a few of our favorites from artists in past exhibitions and programs at the Bedford:
Wind Fins, 2012 (Exterior)
Brushed aluminum integrated into the design of a glass curtain wall
You can find out all about the history and inspiration for this dynamic public art piece this Saturday, July 16 on our docent-led Public Art Walking Tour!
Second Nature, 2012 (Interior, 1st floor/Men’s Shoes)
Hand-dyed cotton thread and wood sticks
Several of Esther’s intricate crochet-wrapped sculptures were in our 2012 show Captured: Specimens in Contemporary Art.
Sleeping Beauty Situation, 2012 (Interior, 1st floor/Between Men’s and Accessories)
Old-growth redwood, picture molding, pine, zippers, metal, shellac, acrylic, and spray paint mounted on wood structure
Amy’s collages were on view in our 2009 show Art on Market Street, featuring a selection of kiosk posters from SFAC.
Living Cities, 2006-2012 (Interior, 1st floor/Men’s Club Room)
Oil on canvas
Two of Maya’s mixed media pieces were in our gorgeous 2015 summer show Botanica: All Things Plant Life.
Ice, 2011-2012, Edition 2 of 3 (Interior, 2nd floor/Designer)
Several of Linda’s large and small-scale sculptures were on view in our 2015 show The Object & The Void: West Coast Metal Sculpture, including her large steel work Sparks, now a Walnut Creek Public Art piece at Cole Terrace Condos, north of Bedford Gallery.
Photo of Esther Traugot's Second Nature courtesy of Chandra Cerrito Contemporary.
Curator's Chat with Crystal Wagner
Posted by BG Staff // June 30th, 2016
Bedford Gallery’s current exhibition FLUX is Crystal Wagner’s first large-scale installation in California. Curator Carrie Lederer sits down with Wagner to talk architectural inspirations, the beauty of dollar store tablecloths, and making art on the edge.
Crystal Wagner installs FLUX at Bedford Gallery.
Carrie (CL): Let’s talk about what inspired the piece at the Bedford and your process. How did the shape of the gallery inspire you?
Crystal (CW): I came into the installation thinking about the arch and skylights in the Bedford. That definitely inspired everything. The first fifteen minutes in a new space, I think about how things would grow there. It made sense that the point of origin would be on the left side, coming through the skylight. The ability for the outside to come in has always been completely intriguing to me in any space where there are windows or skylights. It’s an active moment where the architect is literally letting the outside in, and my conversation is about our relationship with the outside world. It makes sense to me that anytime there is a skylight, I explore it to the fullest degree. So with FLUX, the piece pours in through what I found was the natural gesture through the space.
CL: It’s apparent that your work responds to the architecture, and the Bedford Gallery has some unusual design components to consider.
CW: One of the things that is really beautiful about the Bedford is that you walk into it and there are all of these amazing things. I mean the ceiling itself is a work of art, the concrete radiating architectural structures. And when you put art on the wall, you’re kind of putting something in an environment for people to go to. The open space that I’ve left in FLUX amplifies the back alcove so that the light really celebrates the way that the architecture is set back. I really wanted the light on the wall, so when the piece is lit, the walls and installation function together. It’s not the object in space; it’s the object and the space.
CL: Your work also explores our relationship with the natural world. How does that translate in FLUX?
CW: FLUX is transformative. It mirrors where we are right now in the world in our relationship with technology and our relationship with nature. Artificial technological landscapes are creating different conversations. I wanted the piece in the Bedford because the curve of the space suggests dynamic movement. It tumbles through space and is suspended mostly throughout the entire gallery. That weightlessness is important because FLUX is in transition, and like nature, it’s not something you can hold down.
CL: There’s a real sense of joy and wonder in your work. What ideas or emotions inspire your work?
CW: I live my life with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I think that’s the best way to be present and to take in everything that is happening around us. So for me, I have also found that curiosity and wonder are better catalysts for important conversations. What I want to do is evoke that sense of wonder that people have when they stand in the middle of a redwood forest. Wonder is a fascinating thing because there’s this remarkable moment where you suspend judgment for one brief second and you’re just curious. We can all use more of those moments. In terms of the forms and structures in my work, they’re familiar and foreign at the same time.
CL: Your installations are large and overwhelming, and almost disorienting. Is that your intention?
CW: Yes, and I love that disorientation because I think that is what we are experiencing right now. There are people developing technologies that are making screen holograms so you experience a digital landscape in a 3-dimensional way. But I don’t want to go there. I want to be present. Our minds are powerful tools, but if you turn them off, we are just biology.
CL: Biology seems to be a large part of your language as an artist. Can you speak about that a bit?
CW: I think every artist has a vocabulary if they tap into it. That’s the way we see. I’ve always been interested in biology, the micro vs. macro, investigating the juxtapositions of different objects – line, shapes, colors. I’m pretty image-centric to the point where it’s kind of overwhelming mostly. So when it came to making the work, I’ve been pouring the same language out of myself my whole life. When I was a little girl, I drew fantastical birds and the forms and structures are all the same. All of that has always been there and building just seemed natural.
CL: How and when did the tablecloths become a part of your work?
CW: The first installation I made with it was in 2012. It was made out of foam core board and lollipop sticks so I was already thinking about consumer culture. Consumer culture teaches us what is beautiful. One day I went to the dollar store and saw plastic tablecloth and immediately knew that I had to use it. It was bright and loud, and I was intrigued with the disposable nature of what it was and how it changes the day from normal to celebratory. It became a way for me to reach out to people.
CL: Right, your work is very accessible and engaging, which is great for audiences of all ages.
CW: Exactly. And the idea that anyone can make something. You don’t have to go to Dick Blick to get art supplies. You can make anything out of anything. Let’s re-contextualize this in the material of my 21st century world. This is a material that I have at my disposal.
CL: Do you ever reuse the installation materials once a piece is disassembled?
CW: I’m a huge advocate of reusing, recycling, and reimagining materials. One of the things that happens is I’ll get to a new space and it’s so different, everything about it changes the work. And I can feel the difference when I start to work. The installations over the course of the past four years have evolved so dramatically. It’s like they started as single-cell organisms and now they’re developing. Now there’s a skeleton that’s out there. I’m incredibly intrigued by the way my materials change over time. There’s a life cycle here.
CL: Were you inspired in your early years to be an artist, and are there other artists in your family?
CW: I grew up with a dad who was a contractor. He built log homes. When you see someone build something by themselves, ground up, beautifully executed, you have a sense that people are capable of the most remarkable things. It’s just with wood and hammer but it’s the way that you organize them that makes them significant.
CL: What other projects do you have on the horizon?
CW: I did my first mural ever a couple weeks ago in Harrisburg, PA. And in the next two years I’ll be doing two public art outdoor projects, one in Poland and one in Las Vegas. After that, the work will take on a completely new life.
CL: What is piquing your curiosity these days?
CW: Outer space and the newfound energy that people are placing on a private scale into exploring space. The edge of the edge. I also like the blue dot idea. That once you’re out there and you look back at us we’re just these tiny people. It’s a wacky thing.
Inspiring Creativity: An Interview with Howard Flax
Posted by BG Staff // June 23rd, 2016
We're thrilled to partner with FLAX art & design for our upcoming workshop Drawing with a Blade with artist Crystal Wagner. The legendary art supply store has a fascinating history: Herman Flax opened his first FLAX art & design store in SF in 1938, on the heels of the Great Depression. His brothers had already established their own art supply stores in NY and LA. Herman’s grandson, Howard Flax, is now FLAX’s President, part of a third generation to own and operate the family business. Below, a conversation with Howard on art, working with family, and the company’s recent move to Oakland.
Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle
FLAX art & design has been a treasured presence in the SF art scene for nearly 80 years, and your flagship store just moved to Oakland. The change has sparked lots of dialogue about the flight and plight of artists in the Bay Area, but you’ve had a store in Oakland before and your extended family also operates supply stores in other art hubs like Chicago and Atlanta. What major changes have you seen among artists and art-led industries, both in and outside the Bay Area?
Among artists and art-oriented industries we have not noticed a significant change over the years. The overriding tenor is typically affordable art supplies in a supportive economy. The latter can be challenging. The biggest change we’ve seen is “Art is In.” With the rise of Pinterest, Etsy, DIY and the Maker Movement for example, creativity in any form is really being celebrated. More people than ever realize they can be an artist!
What new opportunities do you see for FLAX since it’s moved to Oakland?
Oakland and the East Bay are so excited that we are [excited]. We very much underestimated the need for an art supply store here. The greatest opportunity I see, and it is well underway, is to integrate Flax into the arts community. The strength and sincerity of the arts community, both individuals and organizations, has been overwhelming. Everyone wants to collaborate and help each other be successful. I love that. We are building lasting relationships to hopefully position Flax in the center of this amazing art scene.
FLAX has been a family-owned business from the beginning. Was it always assumed you’d take over? Any fond or tough memories growing up and working for an institution like FLAX?
Growing up, my father gave my brother and sister and me a wide berth to decide upon our path. Nevertheless, soon after college we all found ourselves in the family business. This was when we had the dynamic mail-order business and there were many roles to fill. It was a great time to learn and grow. It doesn’t often work this way, but yes, it was assumed that I would take over after my siblings and I settled in and discovered what we wanted in a career. Fond memories – that’s easy, getting to work with my dad all these years. He’s been a great mentor and loving supporter. And I’m lucky to add that he’s still involved. My brother and sister are too! It’s a true family-run business.
Most of your employees are artists and musicians. How has the company adapted to respond to their needs?
Our employees are our greatest asset. The length of tenure runs as long as 40+ years. Really! We haven’t adapted in any way, we’ve just always treated our employees with respect.
Are you an artist yourself? Anyone else in the family?
My parents are artists, and my kids are too. I think that attribute skips a generation.
You’ve done a tremendous mail-order business in the past and were an early adopter for online sales in 1998, making Internet Retailer’s Top 500 list in 2005. Yet a few years later you halted e-commerce efforts to focus on brick and mortar. In an era of online sales, what went into those decisions?
That’s a long story, but fundamentally the mail order business was not profitable anymore, and the infrastructure we’d built to support that and the eCommerce business was too big without all the revenue cylinders firing. So we circled the wagons around the retail stores, which has always been our core strength. Our new eCommerce site is growing and this year we’ll be committing further resources to further its success.
Your stores are huge, with a cornucopia of options for artists and hobbyists of all types, including items for casual customers like home décor and picture frames. What are your biggest challenges in today’s retail market? What areas of the market do you see growing or shrinking?
Having opened one and moved another store in just the past seven months, our biggest challenge is letting our customers know of these changes. We know that once we get them in the store, the experience will bring them back. The market is always evolving, as we must. Demand for photo albums continues to shrink to no one’s surprise in the digital age, while Urban Art has been the fastest growing category for a few years. Spray paint has become a legitimate art medium, particularly with the new water-based formulas designed for indoor use.
Your company motto is “Paint Draw Craft,” an appeal to the individual artist rather than the commercial art supply market, along with new programs like the in-store workshops and Live Artist program. How did this shift in focus come about, and what are your future plans in these areas?
Experience. We have to provide our customers with an inspiring experience. Our future plans involve building relationships, holding more events and becoming an integrated component of the East Bay’s arts community. Our goal is to Inspire Creativity.
Now for some gossip – any fun stories to share of famous people shopping at the store? Did your dad get Kim Novak’s autograph when filming Vertigo?
78 years is a long time to be in business. I know a lot of famous names have come through the doors. My favorites would be:
Ansel Adams – he bought a lot of Strathmore paper from us, and it arrived warped. We made good on it and my father received in return three prints – beautiful photographs I grew up with.
Jefferson Airplane – that photo came to our attention from a friend who received an email from Spotify. How does such a cool iconic image stay out of sight for almost 50 years?
Photo: Jefferson Airplane in front of Flax sign at 255 Kearney, 1967 / www.flaxart.com
This workshop is an exciting opportunity to meet Crystal + learn her techniques for making stunning stencils that can be used in a variety of applications, including printmaking, sculpture, and painting! Many thanks to Howard for the interview.
Drawing with a Blade
Saturday, June 25, 3-5pm
$90, Ages 16+
Summer in the Creek
Posted by BG Staff // June 16th, 2016
Whether outdoors or in, there are plenty of unique things to do right here in Walnut Creek to fill those long summer days. Here are some of our top picks for local exploration:
For the Nature Lover
Hike at Mt Diablo State Park
This 20,000-acre state park features picturesque rolling hills, flat valleys and a 3,849-ft-tall summit where on a clear day you can view 40 of California’s 58 counties. Go hiking on one of the many trails that leave from Mitchell Canyon on the north side of the mountain, or explore the sandstone wind caves of Rock City, off South Gate Road.
Go biking on the Iron Horse Regional Trail
Hop onto this 32-mile trail that follows an abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad route. From Walnut Creek you can ride all the way to Pleasanton on a path that offers hill views and easy access to nearby towns along the way if you need to stop for a break.
Smell the roses and watch for birds at Heather Farm
The gardens at Heather Farm are run by an independent, non-profit group who carefully tend to the six acres of themed garden areas—from a variety of roses and annual flowers to California native plants. Throughout the park you can also spot hummingbirds, woodpeckers, song sparrows and Canada Geese.
For the Globetrotter
Indulge your inner Chef
People who love to cook can pick up Indian spices and packaged goods at India Bazaar, Mediterranean offerings like fresh dates, hummus and baklava at Kasra market, and sushi-grade tuna and yellowtail fish at Diablo Oriental Foods.
Eat your way around the Globe
Try Eastern European specialty dishes at Babushka, a Russian deli and restaurant using farm-to-table and organic ingredients, or go for a dolsot rice bowl at Mixed Grain—you choose the protein and type of rice, and there are options for vegetarians and carnivores alike. Also in Walnut Creek is the newly opened Teleferic Barcelona where foodies can nosh on Spanish pintxos (meat skewers), paella, tapas and cocktails.
Shop for imported Goods
For the Urbanite
Hang out at a coffee shop
Caffeine connoisseurs will delight in specially brewed coffees and espressos from international and regional roasters at Coffee Shop, a bustling, hipster hub that also boasts light eats and local art.
Sample gourmet olive oils
Head to We Olive to explore a variety of California grown and artisan olive oils that have been tasted and tested by the California Olive Oil Council. Most everything is available to try, and after you’ve narrowed down your oils, you can hunt for complementary vinegars.
Sip and chug libations
For $10 you get four tastings of either “reds” or “whites” at Buon Vino, an unpretentious wine bar specializing in a rotating selection of Napa offerings on tap. Meanwhile, at ØL BeerCafe & Bottle Shop, brew lovers can choose from 18 hard-to-find drafts as well as a selection of carefully chosen beers to drink either inside or take to go. This over-21 pub has no TVs on purpose, and features live music on Thursdays.
Many thanks to local insider & Bg Docent Laura Krochko for her great recommendations!
On Poetry and Baseball
Posted by BG Staff // June 9th, 2016
Poetry and baseball go hand in hand like, well, cracker jacks and peanuts. Our exhibition of baseball art Safe at Home wouldn’t be complete without some art centered around poetry, including San Francisco Poet Laureate Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Baseball Canto,” illustrated by Mark Ulriksen, author and screenwriter Barry Gifford’s poem to the Chicago Cubs' legendary player Ernie Banks, and of course, “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer, with powerful illustrations by LeRoy Neiman. Here are a few more of our favorite art + poetry pairings:
Pair of high school players, postcard from the series Linedrives and Lipstick, 2007 reproduction of a c. 1915-1920 original, paper, 12 x 8 inches, courtesy of John Kovach, Diamond Dreams
“First Girls in Little League Baseball,” by J. Patrick Lewis
This poem is an ode to the signing of legislation in 1974 that granted equal opportunity in sports for girls and boys.
The year was 1974
When Little Leaguers learned the score.
President Ford took out his pen,
And signed a law that said from then
On women too would have the chance
To wear the stripes and wear the pants.
Now what you hear, as flags unfurl,
Is “Atta boy!” and “Atta girl!”
J. Patrick Lewis, “First Girls in Little League Baseball,” from A Burst of Firsts: Doers, Shakers, and Record Breakers (The Dial Press, 2001).
Brad Mangin, 2015 Kansas City Royals Signed Baseballs from the series Baseball Instagrams, 2015, giclee print, 8 x 8 inches
"A Poem about Baseballs” by Denis Johnson
for years the scenes bustled
through him as he dreamed he was
alive. then he felt real, and slammed
awake in the wet sheets screaming
too fast, everything moves
too fast, and the edges of things
are gone. four blocks away
a baseball was a dot against
the sky, and he thought, my
glove is too big, i will
drop the ball and it will be
a home run. the snow falls
too fast from the clouds,
and night is dropped and
snatched back like a huge
joke. is that the ball, or is
it just a bird, and the ball is
somewhere else, and i will
miss it? and the edges are gone, my
hands melt into the walls, my
hands do not end where the wall
begins. should i move
forward, or back, or will the ball
come right to me? i know i will
miss, because i always miss when it
takes so long. the wall has no
surface, no edge, the wall
fades into the air and the air is
my hand, and i am the wall. my
arm is the syringe and thus i
become the nurse, i am you,
nurse. if he gets
around the bases before the
ball comes down, is it a home
run, even if i catch it? if we could
slow down, and stop, we
would be one fused mass careening
at too great a speed through
the emptiness. if i catch
the ball, our side will
be up, and i will have to bat,
and i might strike out.
Denis Johnson, “A Poem about Baseballs” from The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly: Poems Collected and New. Copyright © 1995 by Denis Johnson.
Carl Aldana, Seals Stadium, 1951, pencil on paper, 5 x 7 inches
“The crowd at the ball game” by William Carlos Williams
The crowd at the ball game
is moved uniformly
by a spirit of uselessness
which delights them—
all the exciting detail
of the chase
and the escape, the error
the flash of genius—
all to no end save beauty
So in detail they, the crowd,
to be warned against
saluted and defied—
It is alive, venomous
it smiles grimly
its words cut—
The flashy female with her
mother, gets it—
The Jew gets it straight— it
is deadly, terrifying—
It is the Inquisition, the
It is beauty itself
day by day in them
the power of their faces
It is summer, it is the solstice
the crowd is
cheering, the crowd is laughing
William Carlos Williams, “The crowd at the ball game” from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I, 1909-1939, edited by Christopher MacGowan. Copyright 1938 by New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Join us for our closing reception & baseball salon BOTTOM OF THE NINTH this Sunday, June 12, 3-5pm and hear more literary gems from writers like John Updike and Michael Lewis, plus see a theatrical performance of a Barry Gifford play starring Maxine Hong Kingston as Martha Gellhorn, hear a dramatic reading of Casey at the Bat, and more! Complimentary stadium treats and refreshments are included in general admission. RSVP early & save a seat!
Public Art Pick: Hand of Peace on the Big Screen
Posted by BG Staff // June 2nd, 2016
Towering above the grassy fields of Walnut Creek’s Civic Park, Hand of Peace is a public art sculpture with a very interesting history. A new documentary about its renowned artist and how it came to reside in Walnut Creek has been nominated for a Northern California Emmy Award. We caught up with director and producer Liz Payne to learn more about making the film and why the sculpture is such an important symbol for the city.
The film is a great tribute to Hand of Peace. Tell us a little about the background of the project, and how it came to be realized.
When the City of Walnut Creek’s Public Art Program was loaned Bufano's Hand of Peace by the Chang family, there was a lot of excitement around the event. Initially Walnut Creek TV was asked to produce a video with a couple of interviews about the sculpture. After I found an article from the 1990s asking how on earth Hand of Peace could be hidden in an office park and what an icon Beniamino Bufano was, we realized there was enough of a story to make a short film.
The animation scenes in the film are beautifully done. What went into your decision to mix animation with historical photographs and footage?
After learning what a creative character Bufano was, I wanted the film to reflect that. He's part of a generation of artists that lived larger than life, hand to mouth, and wholeheartedly dedicated to their work. There was also the practical aspect of having only a few images from the important events in Bufano's life. The animations were done by the talented Alex Parkin. After I saw how creative his work was, I thought great, now I can stop worrying about how to recreate Bufano ripping off the entire roof of this studio.
Beniamino Bufano had a very prolific career as an artist and political activist, and researching his life for the film must have uncovered some fun facts. Anything interesting that didn’t make the film, or deleted scenes?
Even though Bufano completed thousands of works, he was a big dreamer with some of his works never realized. One of Bufano's ambitions was to create the west coast's Statue of Liberty as a welcoming symbol of peace. It was to be a towering 180-ft statue of St. Francis on horseback made from stainless steel overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The debate over the statue made national news, with people either loving or hating the idea. Ultimately, the project was rejected by the San Francisco Public Art Commission. If it had passed, entering San Francisco would look very different today.
Hand of Peace is certainly an eye-catching coop for the city’s Public Art collection. How do you think his original message for the piece (and the time it was created) translates to the city and its residents today?
At the time Bufano started the piece, the US was entering a nebulous conflict in Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing. Today the country is still struggling with complicated military conflicts in the Middle East and the politics of race. In the center of Hand of Peace is a mural of children of all different races and religions standing united in peace. To me the image represents an American ideal the country is still attempting to achieve. I love that the Public Art Program placed the sculpture in a public park across from a library. When I was filming the sculpture I would often see children pointing and smiling at the sculpture. I think Bufano would have appreciated that.
“Hand of Peace” will be shown at SFDocFest June 5 & 7 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. Tickets and more details here. Many thanks to Liz for the interview, and to see more stories by Walnut Creek TV visit their Youtube Channel or site.
The Illuminated Page: Home Run Reads
Posted by BG Staff // May 27th, 2016
What is it about baseball that pairs so well with literature? Is it the slow pace, the swings between failure and heroism, the nail-biting anticipation at bat? There are many great books on players and the game itself, but here are a few of our off-beat favorites for your summer reading list:
Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women who Played the Game
By Erica Westly
The women of the WWII-era All American Girls Professional Baseball League have been immortalized on film in A League of Their Own, but the larger narrative of women on the field come alive in a new history out this June. Originating in Chicago in 1887 after a Yale v. Harvard football game, softball went on to take small town America by storm in the form of a widely popular, inclusive, company-sponsored sport. About more than simple competition, fastpitch softball was a true team sport focused on community, as factories at the turn of the 20th century hoped the sport would keep their workers happy and in shape. Fastpitch is a fun history of this beloved sport complete with vivid profiles of the remarkable women who helped shape it.
The Catcher was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg
By Nicholas Dawidoff
Spy thriller meets baseball biography in this puzzling mystery: why did an average shortstop/catcher travel to Europe to play with all-star players Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig? Moe Berg was a man of brawn and brains, a long-time professional player with a law degree who spoke many languages, and he put it all to good use during World War II for the OSS (predecessor to the CIA). With an unbelievable career like his, you’d think we’d all know his story, yet he still remains a shadowy and enigmatic figure. Look for the Hollywood treatment soon in a new film based on the book.
The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach
This coming-of-age story combines both a love of baseball and great literature. Though he doesn’t look the part, Henry Skrimshander is recruited to play shortstop for the Westish Harpooners of Westish College (a fictional liberal arts school with a fondness for Melville). He’s a natural, with an ease on the field—until he injures a teammate and suddenly feels adrift, his former superstar confidence evaporated. The novel follows the team's tumultuous season with plenty of action on the field, but it’s the literary allusions and deep reflection on adulthood that make this debut extraordinary.
A Book of Walks
By Bruce Bochy
San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy knows a thing or two about stress. His go-to remedy? Long urban walks. Featuring his favorite waterfront walks around AT&T Park and routes in key baseball cities around the country, this portable gem is peppered with observations on life and the game, and a charming champion for the therapeutic benefits of taking a walk.
Casey at the Bat
By Ernest L. Thayer, drawings by LeRoy Neiman
Finally, what would any baseball book list be without this classic? Originally published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, Ernest Thayer’s philosophical poem is a timeless story of field bravado and hubris, and the giant swings that can happen with a single pitch. Though published in countless editions, the one on view in Safe at Home features wonderful drawings by artist LeRoy Neiman. His sketches are bold and full of action, bringing the energy of Mudville to the page.
Join us for our closing reception Bottom of the 9th on June 12 to hear a theatrical reading of this poem, plus music and other live readings! The fun happens 3-5pm.
Fun in the Sun: Your Guide to an Artful LA Summer
Posted by BG Staff // May 19th, 2016
LA is the ideal getaway spot for those who love art, food, and shopping. We’ve put together suggestions for our ideal weekend in the City of Angels
The Downtown Arts District is home to tons of great art galleries (obviously) but no art trip to LA would be complete without visiting the newly opened art mecca that is Hauser Wirth & Schimmel – it’s just that good. This gallery consists of three large gallery spaces, a bookstore, and soon, a restaurant. Their inaugural exhibition Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947-2016 is an amazing show with big names like Ruth Asawa, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Sheila Hicks, Yayoi Kusama, Hannah Wilke, and Phyllida Barlow. This show is guaranteed to make your weekend.
Favorite dish at Bestia
In the Arts District area are some great restaurants – we recommend Wurstkuche if you’re looking for something casual and fun, and Bestia if you are looking for a meal so good, you’ll consider moving to LA right then & there. There literally isn’t a bad dish on Bestia’s menu, so you're bound to be satisfied, but the place is very popular so book a reservation in advance.
Be sure to stop into Poketo – a husband and wife run shop which describes itself as “purveyors of design-driven wares meant to instill art into everyday living.” They are a great source for stationary, home goods, and accessories.
Blum & Poe
Culver City has built a strong Arts District with can’t-miss galleries like Blum & Poe, Cherry and Martin, Mark Moore Gallery, Walter Maciel Gallery, Western Project, and so many more – full list here. The Hammer Museum is also fairly close and always reliable for a good art fix. This summer they're opening their biennial exhibition: Made in L.A. 2016. This show is bound put you in an LA state of mind.
For the best eats & shopping – and people watching – head over to Venice. Gjusta is an impressive café that does it all with outstanding baked goods and deli meats. It has a very young and hip vibe, and a nice outdoor seating area to enjoy the sun. On Abbot Kinney you can find shops selling anything you could imagine – even kimonos at Open the Kimono. These one-of-a-kind pieces are the epitome of LA style – casual, hip, and artful. Abbot Kinney is also home to our favorite ice cream shop – Salt & Straw – originally from Portland, with original flavors such as black olive brittle + goat cheese and roasted strawberry + toasted white chocolate. After a full day of galleries & museums, Venice is a great place to chill out.
Linedrives and Lipstick: The Untold Story of Women’s Baseball
Posted by BG Staff // May 12th, 2016
Get a closer look at some of the first female baseball players in Safe at Home.
Catcher and Batter, postcard, 2007 reproduction of a c. 1910 original, 11.9 x 14 inches
When most of us think of women’s baseball, we recall the Rockford Peaches from the 1992 film A League of Their Own, a dramedy about the all-women baseball team formed during World War II. However, women in baseball date all the way back to 1866 when the first female team was formed at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since then, women have fought hard to solidify their place among baseball’s golden boys. They have faced jeers from critics, played in spectator-less stadiums, and have been reduced to their controversial uniforms, emphasizing gender over talent and athleticism. Through all this, thousands of women over the years have proven they are hard-hitters, playing with grit, strength, and an easy charm.
Safe at Home features a selection of historic photographs from Linedrives and Lipstick: The Untold Story of Women’s Baseball, an exhibition curated by Saint Mary’s College archivist John Kovach. This collection is a celebration of the enduring spirit of these women and colorful imprint they continue to have on the great game. Below are a few of the women featured in the collection:
No woman impacted the game of baseball as much as Maud Nelson. As a young immigrant girl named Clementina Brida, she came to the United States in 1887 to live with her family in Mahoney, Pennsylvania. There, she may have been taught to pitch by Jack Stivetts, a major league pitcher from that area who also instructed Lizzie Arlington on the finer points of mound work. This image was taken when Maud played for the Olson Cherokee Indian team of Watervliet, Michigan, managed by her husband John Olson. For nearly five decades, Nelson remained an active force in women’s baseball, first as a player (including as a starting pitcher for the Boson Bloomers), then as a manager, owner, and women’s baseball promoter. In 2006, Maud was inducted to the National Women’s Baseball Hall of Fame in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Short skirts did not prevent Racine speedster Sophie Kurys (pictured here sliding into home plate) from stealing over 200 bases in a single season. This photograph was taken at spring training in Miami, Florida in 1948, when all ten teams from the league came down to get in condition for the season. The catcher attempting to apply the tag is Ruth “Tex” Lessing, who played for the Grand Rapids Chicks. For a number of seasons, the entire league trained at the same facility in the preseason. While many players found the short skirts embarrassing, they were willing to put up with them to play the game. As player Joyce Hill Westerman later recalled: “. . . I just loved to play ball so much I told myself, ‘It can’t matter.’ It didn’t take me long to adjust.”
Coming from a large family in Chicago, Irene “Ruhnke Dunk” Ruhnke grew up playing baseball. She and her sister Alice Cygan played on teams throughout high school, going semi-pro following graduation. One of the original founding members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in 1943, Irene joined the Rockford Peaches that same year. She was a star player in the AAGPBL, known for her versatility as shortstop and outfielder for the Peaches and later playing second and third base for the Fort Wayne Daisies. She continued to play until 1947, when her boyfriend returned home after WWII, opting for marriage and a life that she described as “footloose and fancy free.” In this photograph from 1946, Irene plays second base for the Daisies.
In celebration of these landmark women, we’ve created our own vintage color trading card – enjoy!
Take a(n Art) Hike: Public Art Walking Tours Are Back!
Posted by BG Staff // May 5th, 2016
Ever wonder about that giant yellow head in a fountain on Main Street? Or the colorful hand reaching for the sky in Civic Park? Learn all about these pieces and more on a walking tour of the city’s incredible public art collection! Stroll around downtown on one of four routes with one of our knowledgeable public art ambassadors and hear more about the artist, history, and process behind each piece. Perfect for groups, families, or that inquisitive out-of-town visitor, our public art walking tours take place at 11am every third Saturday of the month, April through November. Follow it up with lunch downtown & your day is set!
Here’s a Thursday throwback look at the tour program in “Creek Currents” from Walnut Creek TV, as host Ruby Lopez* joins Bg Docent Jane Emanuel to learn more about a few key public art pieces around the city:
And now you can look forward to two new public art pieces coming to Broadway Plaza in the coming months: Joyce Hsu’s fun Rawr sculptures, perfect for young art enthusiasts, will feature dinosaurs and hummingbirds in the plaza’s family rest area, and Cliff Garten’s stunning Liliales will reference native plants and the city’s early cultural history.
Can’t make a docent-led tour? Take our self-guided tour online HERE or call the number on any one of our public art signs around the city!
*You sports fans may recognize Ruby as an in-arena host at Oracle for the Golden State Warriors, currently well in the race for another NBA championship. Go Ruby and go Warriors!
Art Fair Entertainment: A Taste of Miami & SF Preview
Posted by BG Staff // April 28th, 2016
Springtime in the Bay Area means more than a flash of warm weather and wildflowers—it’s a time for art fairs big and small, bringing together curators, gallerists, collectors, artists, and art enthusiasts for the SF art world’s meet & greet event of the season. The excitement of so much modern and contemporary art concentrated under a few roofs and the buzz of who will stand out among them lend exuberance to a very social scene. It’s not only a chance for the public to see, but also be seen themselves, hang out with friends, and take new selfies for social media feeds. There’s something for everyone as celebrities mix with moms, curators with college students, and fashionistas of all stripes strut their stuff in artful outfits and flashy shoes:
Fashion imitates art / Art imitates fashion at Art Basel Miami Beach
This past December, Bg curator Carrie Lederer attended Art Basel Miami Beach, a renowned international art fair showcasing a dizzying collection of diverse art with over 260 galleries, satellite fairs, after-parties, and hundreds of thousands of exhibition space. “It’s a great place to source new artists and new art trends from around the world,” says Lederer. “It’s a superb opportunity to visit galleries from around the U.S., Europe, Asia, and beyond—all under one roof! Year before last, I made many significant discoveries for our recent exhibition My Hero! (now touring nationally), and Cut Up / Cut Out (upcoming in the 2016-17 season).”
The epitome of a fast-paced social art spectacle in the US, ABMB takes over the city as much of it plays host to art venues and parties. Among thousands of paintings, sculptures, and installations are the pieces that draw the crowds (and iPhones faster than you can say “Koons”), exhibiting presence alongside the work and giving guests a chic place to unwind and hang out:
Back in the Bay, SF’s stARTup Art Fair gives art lovers a more intimate experience with rooms of art and performances from unrepresented artists in the Hotel Del Sol. Responding to seismic shifts in the art world, co-founders Ray Beldner and Steve Zavattero wanted to give independent artists a space to show art on their own terms and link them directly with clients and collectors. Beyond the economic value to the artists – they keep 100% of sales – the fair is a chance for them to network and connect with their peers, all while maintaining the fun, art-fair vibe.
Who, When, Where
Art Market San Francisco – April 27-May 1, 2016 – Fort Mason
Parking Lot Art Fair – April 30, 2016 – Fort Mason parking lot, TBD
stARTup Art Fair – April 29-May 1, 2016 – Hotel Del Sol
Don’t miss Ray Beldner’s piece in Safe at Home, on view now through June 12!
Root for the Home Team: Walnut Creek's Hot Sports Spots
Posted by BG Staff // April 26th, 2016
Not sure where to watch the next A’s or Giants game? Here’s our roundup of some of Walnut Creek’s best spots to be a sports fan:
If you’re looking to catch the game—any game—this lively sports bar broadcasts all MLB events, along with every match from the NFL, NHL, NBA, Rugby, NCAA, soccer, and UFC on their 47 TVs (they also have three big-screen projectors). Plus, there are 23 beers on tap and lots of pub grub, including garlic fries (an AT&T Park staple).
Those seeking more upscale offerings can cheer on the home team at this rustic-chic locale, styled after a 19th-century ranch. There are six TVs at the bar and four more outside (along with a fire pit). They’re known here for their wide selection of craft beers as well as specialty cocktail and local wines. If a group is showing a lot of interest in the game, they’ll even turn the sound on.
Head here for a more typical, casual environment to watch the sport of your choice on one of their 30 flatscreen TVs. This 10,000-square-foot watering hole also features 12 pool tables, an indoor bocce ball court, shuffleboard table, and depending on the day, food specials, live entertainment, and dancing.
BG Recommends: Walnut Creek Restaurant Week
Posted by BG Staff // April 14th, 2016
Indulge your inner foodie & try prix-fixe menus from over 20 restaurants and eateries around the Creek during Restaurant Week April 17-24. Below are some of our favorite delicious deals, with a word of warning: Don’t read on an empty stomach!
The Spot: Havana
Type of Food: Cuban
The Deal: Stop in for a $10 lunch and you’ll have your choice between four entrees and two desserts, like the Ropa Vieja—shredded braised beef with onion, peppers, and tomato, with a side of black beans and plantain maduros. Leave room for the caramel rum flan for dessert.
The Spot: Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar
Type of Food: International small plates
The Deal: The dinner menu here gives you four courses for $30. If you can, choose a seat on their patio, one of the prettiest in the Creek, with crawling vines, water fountain, and a majestic oak tree. From the menu, we’d pick the potato and green garlic soup with green garlic pistou as a starter, then the burrata cheese with pistachio, picholine olive tapenade, and crostini as an appetizer. Next, we’d choose the potato gnocchi with snap peas, roasted carrots, and a brandy mushroom sauce as the entree and finish with the strawberry-rhubarb crumble topped with chantilly cream. (Drooling yet?)
While dining, don't miss Olivia Kuser's gorgeous public art piece on the Va de Vi patio!
The Spot: Lark Creek
Type of Food: Seasonal, locally-sourced food & comfort food
The Deal: In this airy dining room you’ll find an upscale atmosphere and a posh exhibition kitchen. The $40-dinner menu here includes a baby kale salad with goat cheese, mangoes, pistachios, and a pomegranate vinaigrette to start, along with their popular pan-seared steelhead accompanied by saffron risotto, sauteed spinach, and roasted pepper vinaigrette as an entree. For dessert, we can’t resist the warm devil’s food cupcake with vanilla bean ice cream and hot fudge.
Find a complete list of participating restaurants via Walnut Creek Downtown & share snaps of your favorite meals:
Artist Spotlight: Tabitha Soren's Fantasy Life
Posted by BG Staff // April 7th, 2016
Many may remember Safe at Home artist Tabitha Soren from her time on MTV News as a young reporter in the 90s (from the good ol’ days of music television) and the face of the program’s “Choose or Lose” campaign, aimed at getting Gen-X to the polls. Around the time she left the show in 1998, she won a journalism fellowship at Stanford University, where she took classes in art history and photography. Since then, she’s become a fine art photographer, with work appearing in publications such as the New York Times Magazine, ESPN Magazine, and Vanity Fair, and in the public collections of the Oakland Museum of Art, Pier 24 Photography, New Orleans Museum of Art, and Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, among others. Her photography externalizes inner psychological states through expressive portraits and landscapes.
Tabitha Soren, Division Championship, 2014, selenium-toned gelatin silver print, 12 x 15 inches
Tabitha doesn’t call herself a baseball fan, but a fan of the players. For her series Fantasy Life, she followed the 2002 draft class of the Oakland A’s over a period of 12 years, periodically checking in with them to document their successes and failures. The results were on par with what she suspected, and why she wanted to do the series: real fame is hard to maintain and hardly romantic. Many of the players from back then are now doing other things, like coaching Little League or taking work in nonsports-related fields (and tragically, one is homeless). She finds baseball to be an apt metaphor for the greater American Dream, that failure can still lead to success and that we must strive to be extraordinary if we want to have a meaningful life.
Tintypes from Fantasy Life, beautifully capturing the action of the players: (left to right) Tabitha Soren, 0517, 2014, unique tintype, 10 x 8 inches; Tabitha Soren, 0583, 2014, unique tintype, 10 x 8 inches
John Baker, one of the players from that draft class, in attendance at the opening reception for Safe at Home with his family. Artwork credit: Tabitha Soren, 5050, 2015, unique tintype, 10 x 8 inches
What’s unusual about Tabitha’s career trajectory is that she willingly traded her fast-paced, rockstar life for one with a slower burn—moving from fame and notoriety, having interviewed Bill Clinton and rapper Tupac Shakur, even appearing in a Beastie Boys music video, to more anonymity among the art world, and this time behind the camera. She gives us an insider perspective on lives the rest of us dream about by stripping away the veneer of success and revealing a kind of living focused on being more genuine than extraordinary.
Tabitha in her home studio in Berkeley, CA.