Tuesday, December 20, 2016

“Prodigal Son: The Return of Douglas Heine”

   A new exhibit opening on Saturday, January 14, 2017 will feature the work of Vallejo-born sculptor Douglas Heine, who is returning to Vallejo for his first full-scale showing in his hometown.
Douglas Heine was born in Vallejo in 1935 and graduated from Vallejo High School in 1953. His high school years were tumultuous and with his group of friends that some considered a gang, things often got pretty wild. He went on to attend Mare Island’s Apprentice School, as did many young Vallejo men of that time. Heine helped build reactors on nuclear submarines but visualized something else for his life’s work. While working night shifts at Mare Island, Heine attended California College of Arts and Crafts and Solano College during the day. Working at the shipyard, he learned the value of working with tools and developed skill in working with his hands. Heine had taken classes from DorothyHerger at Vallejo High School and was pleased to again study with Herger at Solano College. Through his study with Herger, Heine realized his passion in life was to work with his hands making art. He continued studying art while upholding the responsibilities of family life after marrying his sweetheart from Vallejo High School, Judy Anderson. Heine soon pursued work at UC Berkeley and moved the family to Berkeley at age 30.
     At UC Berkeley, Heine worked with Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez at the Space Science Laboratory.  He was part of the team that crafted scientific experiments for high-altitude balloons that would study cosmic particles. After a decade in that heady company, he met Professor Harold Paris at a meeting of Experiments with Art and Technology and was offered work in the art department to establish a plastics shop. No funding developed for plastics, but Heine was soon managing the process of bronze casting at UC Berkeley’s foundry with artist Peter Voulkos.
   Heine traveled to Carrara, Italy and visited the marble-carving studio of sculptor Manuel Neri, who encouraged him to try his hand at carving marble. After spending time in Studio Nicoli, Carlo Nicoli encouraged him to bring students from the U.S. and teach workshops   in marble-carving. For sponsorship, Heine approached the administration of UC Berkeley’s Extension “Travel Abroad” program, and for the following six years led an annual marble-carving workshop in Carrara.
    Heine worked with a consortium of universities and for Boston College to study mueon interaction. He traveled to Italy to work in the insulating caves of the Gran Sasso Mountains near the city of L’Aquila, not far from Rome. During this year of scientific study, he continued his study and the craft of carving marble.
    Heine developed his art in the Berkeley studio shared with fellow sculptor Jorge Duron. Originally from Mexico, Duron encouraged him to teach drawing workshops in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende. Heine drew students from the U.S. to workshops every year for ten years. During this same time, he taught figurative clay workshops in Berkeley. He continued his work at UC Berkeley, this time in the Astrophysics Department, working with George Smoot, winner of the Nobel Prize for the experiment Cosmic Background Explorer.
    After many years of work at UC Berkeley and teaching workshops, he took early retirement and  began to focus full time on his art in his West Berkeley studio. He has shown his art internationally and locally. Heine’s public installations grace the City of Orinda, Solano College, St. Hilary’s in Tiburon, and the Embarcadero BART station. After an absence of fifty years the prodigal son returns to his roots.
    Heine is pleased to return to the city of his birth, Vallejo, to share his life’s pursuit of art via the multiple media of marble, bronze, aluminum, paint, and tapestry.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Exhibit: “Gazing Through the Looking Glass: Artists Envision Wonderland”

Charles M. Ware

   The Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and Alice herself are just a few of the vivid characters created by author Lewis Carroll in his Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. These figures, loved by generations of readers, have become part of our common culture -- as recognizable as Santa Claus or Little Red Riding Hood. Alice and her companions have become central to a great many other artistic works -- films, music,
and artwork among them.

   "Gazing Through the Looking Glass: Artists Envision Wonderland" is a new exhibit at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum that explores how some artists have picked up Lewis' characters and made them part of contemporary art. The exhibit features work by artists Charles Ware, Barry Moser, and others, and runs in conjunction with Vallejo's Mad Hatter's Holiday Festival in December. The exhibit also features Alice-themed artworks created by students at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School.

Barry Moser
   Barry Moser is an award winning illustrator, printer, painter, printmaker, designer, author, essayist, and teacher. Mr. Moser's edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland won the National Book Award for design and illustration in 1983, and prompted the poet John Ashbery writing in Newsweek to call Moser's work "never less than dazzling." He frequently lectures and acts as visiting artist and artist in residence at universities and institutions across the country. He is on the faculty of the Illustration Department at the Rhode Island School of Design, was the 1995 Whitney J. Oates Fellow in Humanities at Princeton University, was artist and writer in residence in the Children's Literature department at Vassar College in 1998, and is currently on the faculty of Smith College, where he is Professor in Residence in the Department of Art and serves as Printer to the College.

   Charles M. Ware (1921-2005) was an outsider artist and a member of a San Francisco Visionary School of Art that flourished in the 1960s and 70s. Ware's obsessions, dreams, and visions led him to develop a highly personal mythological and spiritual realm populated  by an intriguing cast of characters -- some of Ware's own creation and some borrowed from other sources.

   Ware had a particular fascination with Lewis Carroll's Alice, the inspiration for some of his best work. The artist was self-taught in many aspects, including printmaking, in which he developed great skill. Ware's artwork reveals a remarkable attention to detail and a delight in experimentation with materials and media. He first attracted attention as a street artist in San Francisco's North Beach, where he was part of the bohemian subculture that saw the end of the Beat generation and the beginning of the Hippies and the Summer of Love. Visionary art fit with the mood of the times, and by the 1970s Ware's art was being shown in Union Square galleries. Ware's art, like that of other Visionaries, later fell from fashion -- but is now enjoying renewed interest.

   Both artists' Alice-themed artworks allow us to consider how Lewis Carroll's stories continue to be a source of inspiration. "Gazing Through the Looking Glass: Artists Envision Wonderland" runs through January 3, 2015.

Discover More on December 13th: "Charles M. Ware's Visions of Wonderland"

   An afternoon of presentations and discussions on Alice's continuing impact on the visual arts -- with a particular emphasis on the artwork of San Francisco Visionary artist Charles M. Ware -- will be held at the Museum on Saturday, December 13 at 1:30 p.m.

   The program will open with a presentation by Mark Burstein, president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Burstein will discuss the ongoing fascination for Alice held by artists who adopt and utilize Lewis Carroll's creations in order to achieve their own artistic goals.

Charles M. Ware
   Next, we will turn to a focused discussion of Charles M. Ware, whose art is a prominent part of "Gazing Through the Looking Glass." Ware occasionally commeneted that he thought he might be the reincarnated spirit of John Tenniel (1820-1914), the English illustrator who established the well-known depictions of Carroll's characters.

   Ware's life, artworks and writings will be presented by Alan Selsor, an art consultant and curator who has been researchig Ware with the help of the artists' family and friends. He will be joined by Art Hazelwood, a noted Bay Area printmaker and friend of the artist. Hazelwood will discuss Ware's idiosyncratic and highly inventive printmaking techniques by showing examples of his actual printing plates and wood blocks.

   The afternoon will end with the showing of a 30-minute documentary-in-development being created by John Morita, a photographer, printmaker, and film-maker who first met Ware and his family in 1971. Some of Morita's early photographs of the Wares were the basis of a group on inventive print images, "The Ware Family Series," which was exhibited at SFMOMA in 1979. Morita continued to film and photograph the Wares, and these materials form the basis of the documentary.

(Thanks to Alan Selsor and Barry Moser for contributing to the above post)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vallejo's Deplorable School Conditions - 76 Years Ago!

     Vallejo voters will soon be asked to vote on a School Bond Issue that will provide funds to alleviate problems with our local schools. Although it's an old cliche that "history repeats itself," in this case it's true. In 1938, students at Vallejo High School published the following article in the school newspaper, the "Red & White," urging voters to pass a Bond Issue to help improve conditions at the school. Under the headline: Napa Lives in Luxury! Vallejo Starves! the students wrote the following:

      "Last week when we visited the Napa Union High School, we were actually astounded at the classroom facilities which the students are so fortunate as to have. We envied them for their building which is of ample size to house the entire student body without overcrowding; whereas here in Vallejo some 1038 students are crowded into a building which when first occupied housed only 393 students. 
   "Showing plainly how classroom accommodations of Napa compare with ours are these figures; Napa has a total enrollment this year of 770, while Vallejo High has 1038 students enrolled. At Napa there are 32 full time teachers with 31 classes held each hour; here we have 36 full time teachers and 30 different classes held each hour. Included in the main building there are 29 classrooms as compared to our 19 classrooms. Here you will ask how hold 30 classes each hour with only 19 classrooms . The answer is, that five classes a day are held in the cafeteria; six classes a day are held in a makeshift room that was once the library; five classes a day are being held in a basement hall and apartment room; mechanical drawing classes are held in another makeshift room in the front of the shop building; then for three periods of the day there are two gym classes, one for boys and one for girls; during the other three periods there are three gym classes, one for boys and two for girls; also the shop and music buildings take care of three classes an hour.
    "Then too at Napa, each room that is utilized for a classroom really is a classroom. They have no poor excuses for classrooms such as we have; namely, the mechanical drawing room and the old library that is now used as a classroom. In these two rooms no poorer conditions for study could be found. To begin with, the mechanical drawing room is just a temporary room, partitioned off from the shops, and for a study that demands the very best of lighting we offer to our students the very worst. The furniture and equipment of this room is the most wretched that could be had; in the desktops are grooves and cracks that were brought there by old age alone. The library room where six English and language classes are held a day has for a wall a single partition that does not extend to the ceiling to divide it from the book room next door. The noise from this room is constantly interrupting the study in the classes on the other side of the partition. This so-called classroom is 13 by 28 feet, has no desks or tables – it is simply equipped with desk-chairs which prove very unsatisfactory – here thirty students or more each period struggle to concentrate on study.
   "These rooms when compared to the light, airy, spacious rooms of Napa High make Vallejo High look like a poor country relation. And when we asked the principal of Napa High whether any classes were held in the cafeteria he looked at us in such wonderment that we hurried to explain how the conditions at our school necessitated such a thing. Although at Napa High chemistry is not such an important subject as it is here, they have much better classroom and laboratory facilities than we have. They have for their classroom a room similar in the arrangement of the seats to the physics laboratory, though in no other way is it comparable. This room has windows lining one wall, is painted a light cream and green, and the desk-chairs are all finished in a light color. Lining the front wall of this room are cabinets for the storage of chemical supplies and books. Also in the front of the room is an experiment desk. Connecting this lecture room with the laboratory is a supply room where there are many large and conveniently arranged cupboards. The laboratory proper is a room larger than our present lab. Two walls of this room are lined with windows, while the other two rooms are lined with cupboards and drawers. At the front of this laboratory is a demonstration desk; placed parallel to this desk are the students’ experiment desks. These are very similar to the desks in the general science lab of the Junior High School. Accommodations in the lab are sufficient for 25 students; many of these students work alone on their experiments and some in couples, but nowhere to be seen were there three or four students working together on one experiment as we are forced under present conditions to do.
   "Comparing all the features of our ancient rivals’ chemistry lab and classroom with that poor little excuse for a chemistry lab of ours where the instructor tries to prepare the students for courses in college chemistry, we just shake our heads and wonder how we have been able to work under such adverse conditions for so long. Our poverty-stricken chemistry room with its ancient outmoded experiment desks, its inadequate storage space for chemical supplies, the 30 desk-chairs which are jammed into a space large enough for half of them is indeed a sorry sight.
   "Napa has both a physics and a biology laboratory; these are a combination of lecture hall and laboratory. They have at the front of both rooms chairs and tables for class work, while the physics room has desks similar to those of the chemistry room and the biology room is equipped with work benches the length of the room. Both rooms are very well lighted and have cabinets for supplies and specimen display.
   "From the time we entered the building at Napa we were conscious of the excellent lighting. In the offices, library, commercial, mechanical drawing, art and sewing rooms they have a system of indirect lighting.
   "The quiet that pervaded the halls and classrooms was another thing quite noticeable to us. As we entered the building we both remarked on how quiet it was; we saw a student walking down the hall before we heard her. There you can walk through the halls without the echo of footfalls resounding through the building. And nowhere on the lower floor could the noise of students walking in the classrooms above be heard, for the ceilings are insulated with sound-absorbing material.
   "Napa’s gym facilities greatly outdo ours, for they have a big and a little gym that are adequate for the needs of both girls’ and boys’ gym classes. There is never a gym class without a gym, for the boys and the girls alternate between the big and little gym. The girls shower facilities put ours to shame. They have 48 showers; these showers are below the level of the floor, thus eliminating the main objection to our present shower room facilities; namely, the water lying on the floor. But we have said so much about the intolerable condition of our gym that there is nothing more to be said but vote “yes” for the Bond Issue.
   "The real luxuries of Napa High School are their auditorium and public address system. Their little theatres roused much envy in us.
   "The tax rate for the schools at Napa is 41 cents this year; last year it was 58 cents because they were given $20,000 towards their building fund. This low tax rate is possible because the school is a Union High School. The Napa High School is valued at nearly $400,000, and the campus covers 40 acres. Much of this property is used by the students of the Agriculture Department. Here at Vallejo we have 16 acres of land included in our present campus; with the passing of the Bond Issue we will have a necessary 15 additional acres.
   "After seeing both Vallejo and Napa High Schools, we feel that Napa lives in luxury, while Vallejo starves. It is up to you to see that the Bond Issue is passed so we can compete academically on an equal basis with our neighboring school."