Thursday, April 20, 2017

World War One Centennial: Part 1

April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into WWI – the “war to end all wars.” To commemorate this historic centennial, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum recently opened a new exhibit called “Over There/Over Here” which runs through August 26, 2017. Following are a few of the interesting local stories featured in the exhibit:
“Thirty Days or Bust!”

    In 1918, in order to prove that they were the fastest, most efficient, and most patriotic workers at any U.S. shipyard, Mare Island “yardbirds” set a goal to build and launch the destroyer USS Ward in only 30 days. A banner on the Building Ways proclaimed “30 Days or Bust!” It was a seemingly impossible task, yet crews worked round-the-clock and were able to build the ship in a record-setting 17 ½ days. Original ceremonial rivet hammers, photo- graphs, and a scale model of USS Ward are included in the exhibit.

African Americans in WWI                                   
    The wartime draft did not discriminate among the races, although African Americans still served in segregated units. Many of those units gained fame on   the battlefields of Europe and were lauded for their bravery and decisive military action.

On October 29, 1917, the Vallejo Evening Chronicle reported the following:

9 SOLANO COLORED DRAFT MEN - ALL FROM VALLEJO; Leave Fairfield For American Lake in the Charge of Calley Oliver; Addresses Made Before Detachment Entrains For Trip North.

    “Nine men from Vallejo comprised Solano's full quota of colored soldiers of liberty and they left here this morning on the first leg of their journey to American  Lake in the charge of Calley Oliver.

    “Fairfield, Suisun and adjoining places turned out to give the boys a send-off and there were patriotic addresses by Judge W.T. O'Donnell, Rev. John Barrett of Vallejo, County Recorder F. M. Dickey, F.F. Marshall of the County Exemption Board and L.J. Williams, the latter a colored man from Vallejo, who spoke on behalf of men entraining, making an unusually fine address.

    “Those in the increment leaving today were: Calley Oliver, Edward Hayes, Stephen Corpage, Lorenzo Mitchell, Frank J. Smith, James M. Taylor, Izaac Shaw, James Kay, and James Hackett.”

Last Man’s Club

   The Solano County Last Man’s Club was organized on November 20, 1937. The Club was made up of Solano County veterans of WWI. The club met regularly to commemorate and honor those who had served in the War.          

    A bottle of vintage Champagne was at the heart of the club’s existence. As club members grew older and eventually passed away, the club grew smaller, until eventually it would be made up of “the Last Man.” That veteran would then have the honor of finally opening the bottle and drinking a toast to the comrades who had preceded him. 

     The tradition of the Last Man’s Club was not limited to Solano County. Such clubs have existed in many countries and among veterans of many different wars.

    On November 11, 1977, with only eight members remaining, the club decided to cease holding regular meetings due to age and ill health. The club also voted to present its records, photographs, and the Champagne bottle to the Museum. The bottle, photos, and original club roster book are featured in the exhibit.

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)