Dancing the last dance

For quite a few years, we’ve enjoyed the day trips put on by the Art Guild of the Oakland Museum of California. A small cadre of dedicated volunteers does a brilliant job of finding artists and collectors who would welcome a busload of art lovers behind the scenes, and 40 or so grey heads have an excellent and informative day’s outing.

Now, for reasons inexplicable, the Museum has chosen to dissolve the Art Guild; there will be no more day trips.

The trips are far from free, and the museum makes a tidy sum with little overhead.  You must be a member of the museum to be a member of the art guild, so there is more income generated. They’ll be losing many of those members, including us, with the death of the Guild and the day trips.

This, then, is a report on the last of the day trips.  There might be one more scheduled, I’m not sure.  The Art Guild is no more.

The group got on the bus at the Museum and drove just a few minutes to the home and studio of artist Lynda Dann.  We started out in her fabulous garden, which was decorated for the occasion with her paintings.

Lynda in he garden

Lynda in her garden

The house is full of her art, and includes her studio:

Rows and rows of acrylic paints

Rows and rows of acrylic paints

Lynda is always looking for strange and rare object to include in her art:

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Her collection of esoterica to paint

A particularly nice painting gracing the fence outside

A particularly nice painting gracing the fence outside.  It seems to blend perfectly with the garden.

 

From Lynda’s house our steady bus driver, Pete, took us to the Orinda estate of Sharon Simpson.  Her late husband, Barclay Simpson was the founder of Simpson Strong Tie, inventing a brace, or gusset, that revolutionized the building trades.  The Simpsons have been tremendous supporters of the arts, and their home is a living museum.

The formal garden around the house are as spectacular as the inside, and that’s where we started.  The conditions of our art tours prohibit photographs inside collector’s homes, so I have lots of exterior shots.

The red is the reflection of a lady's coat.

The red is the reflection of a lady’s coat.

 

I don't know what these flowers are, but I like them.

I don’t know what these flowers are, but I like them.

 

Looking down from the house, you can just see the head of David. That's no accident

Looking down from the house, you can just see the head of David. That’s no accident

 

A full size David created out of Simpson products.

A full size David created out of Simpson products.  It sits in a tiny alcove all by itself.

 

A very small Bufano sculpture. The nose is broken from when it fell over.

A very small Bufano sculpture. The nose is chipped from when it fell over.

 

Blue dog, with pups. By Marc Chatterly

Blue dog, with pups. By Marc Chatterly

 

Sometimes flowers just catch my eye.

Sometimes flowers just catch my eye.

Finally we finished with the magnificent formal and informal gardens, and worked our way to the front doors–which are also works of art.

Sculptured front doors by Stan Dann.

Sculptured front doors by Stan Dann, Lynda Dann’s father.

 

The house is everything you might think it would be, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to see it.  The greatest benefit of the Art Guild has been the access to private homes and collections that we would never get to see otherwise.

After lunch at the Orinda Country Club, we motored to the last stop of the day–the new Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive (BMPFA).  The old building was seismically unsafe, the University had a printing plant they weren’t using, the Simpsons had a bunch of money to donate to get things started, and Voila! you have a state of the art museum.

Even the security staff are works of art.

Even the security staff are works of art.

 

The opening exhibition, called Architecture of Life, “explores architecture as a metaphor of life”.  I guess that makes sense, but the truth is that while I love the new facility, the current exhibit didn’t move me much.  There were a few pieces that I appreciated:

Wire sculptures by Ruth Azawa

Wire sculptures crocheted  by Ruth Azawa

I liked the way this piece used the space of the museum to define different urban and suburban areas.

Citys

Cityscape with house and gray energy, by Chris Johanson

Cityscape with house and gray energy, by Chris Johanson

 

This is a temporary mural in the main entryway.  It’s huge, perhaps 20×50, and all created onsite:

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There is a room of Asian art, with this wonderful Buddha:

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There is a small, dark room where only 6 people are permitted at a time.  It contains plexiglass boxes into which the artist placed two different types of spiders and then preserved the varied webs they spun.  It may or may not mean anything, but it’s interesting to look at in any case.

 

Gail and I have noticed that museums almost always have very good cafes.  Although we didn’t eat there, I liked the look of the restaurant on the second floor, projecting out over the sidewalk on the Center Street side of the building.  I was particularly taken with the table which includes a planter box:

Large communal table at the museum cafe.

Large communal table at the museum cafe.

 

And that was the end of the day, the end of the tour, the end of the Guild, the end of our opportunity to see inside studios and private collections.  I’ll miss our days with Ruth, Candy, Arline, Jeanne and all the other tour leaders who put these trips together.  I’ll miss the places we got to see that we’ll never be able to see again. I’ll even miss Pete, the bus driver.

 

 

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