Artists Taking Over Bus Benches in Oakland
All over northern Oakland, you’ll see bus benches painted something much more pleasing than the typical ad slogan or ‘for a good time call…”. Oakland artists are transforming empty advertising space into public art. And as a result our streets are more beautiful than they used to be. The ‘Bench Projects’ is led by artist Ellen Lake and is supported by the City of Oakland Cultural Funding Program and a small grant from Keep Oakland Beautiful.
Turning this waste of space:
Into work we can enjoy, into something to talk about, or gaze at. The art on these AC transit benches is by local Oakland artists
Jet Martinez brings his signature paintings to Bench Projects. His work is recognized for a psychedelic tinge, op-art inspired patterns, natural settings which incorporate patterns into plant forms, and is inspired by folk art from my Mexico.
Tony Bellaver and Mary V Marsh, Quite Contrary Press, come together for a collaborative project, The river has no ego. Maps, drawings, photographs and objects collected are incorporated in a layered story of journeys to create texture and meaning in diary-like works. Notes and ideas are synthesized with images into prints, artist’s books and assemblages, and in this case for bus benches.
Lisa Solomon brings us Grannies in North Oakland. Bus benches are not usually comfortable places. In thinking about what constitutes comfort hand made granny square blankets are high on the list. Lisa depicts both real granny squares that she crocheted, and ones that she painted and embroidered on. She is interested in the space between “reality” and “rendering” – especially when the items are loaded with potential personal meaning and could be symbols of warmth and comfort.
Kelly Ording blends organic and geometric shapes with exact lines, pairing intuitive and mathematical mark-making like in Sunny Side Up, Sunshine, and Nighttime – installed along MLK and Market Streets. She questions the singular object and its amplification through massive repetition often resulting in vivid ethereal landscapes.
Erin Colleen Johnson and Kari Marboe, Waiting Theater Presents, is an unwritten, four act play performed on a series of bus benches in Oakland, California. The fluid and ever-unfolding work invites the public to shift away from the typical solitary commuter experience by creating their own improvised play with those around them. The minimal, outdoor sets are comprised of standard bus benches, natural lighting, the title of the act, and images of chair backs. People visiting the set become the actors, and those passing by become the audience.
Andrea Brewster’s most recent works are centered within the contemporary art/craft context, while also examining issues of identity, gender, and biomorphic form. Looking at biological processes and forms, Andrea finds the structures of cells and the complexity of proteins endlessly inspiring. For Bench Projects, she created a series of drawings, imagining Beauty as a virus. These Beauty Virus panels ask what if Beauty were contagious and could replicate itself and spread, infecting every one of us, with its magic?
Bench Warming celebration this Sunday, March 20, 4-5:30 pm at the benches at MLK and Arlington St, North Oakland.