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."

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Boys of Summer Visit Mare Island, 1945

From the Mare Island Grapevine  -  Friday, February 23, 1945

“Big League Stars Visit Hospital”

“It was quite an exciting day last Tuesday when the world famous baseball players of the past and present baseball world visited the Mare Island Naval Hospital. They helped spread good cheer and enjoyment for the patients and staff members with their humorous stories and jokes of the national pastime.

Ty Cobb
“Among the group were Ty Cobb, the greatest baseball player of all time, formerly with the Detroit Tigers and other clubs; Lefty O’Doul, manager of the San Francisco Seals, formerly with the Brooklyn Dodgers; Dolph Camilli, manager of the Oakland club, and formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies; JoeGordon, now a sergeant in the Army Air Corps stationed at Hamilton Field, former famous keystoner of the New York Yankees; and Joe Marty, also a sergeant at Hamilton Field, formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Others present were Jim Tobin, great pitcher for the Boston Braves; Augie Galan, star outfielder of the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers; Ernie Lombardi, catcher for the Cincinnati Reds and N.Y. Giants. And last, but by no means least, Oscar Vitt, one-time manager of the Cleveland Indians, who is noted for his deep bellow which is so familiar to all fans of the American League.

Lefty O'Doul
“Probably the most appreciated and truthful statement was made by Joe Gordon when he thanked Tony Lazzari for retiring, thus to allow him (Gordon) to take over.

“After a short movie of the World Series of 1944, Manuel Duarte [owner of the Oakland Oaks] acted as the “Professor” in a Baseball Quiz, in which the patients participated. The winning team with a score of 560 points had as their members Pfc. Straub, Pfc. Pitzer, Pfc. Sims who was high man and Cpl. White. The other team put up a good fight with a score of 333 points. The ballplayers, accompanied by W.A. Brown of the Oakland Tribune brought prizes for the winners.

“Later in the afternoon the players visited the wards where they talked with the bed patients who were not able to attend the theater performance.”

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mare Island Names

The story of Mare Island’s naming is a well-known one: General Mariano G. Vallejo’s favorite white mare falling overboard into the wind-swept waters of the Carquinez Straits. The horse was feared lost, but later turned up on the shores of Isla Plana… “the flat island,” and the General, relieved that his favorite horse had survived, renamed the island Isla de la Yegua… “Island of the Mare.”

But there are other names associated with Mare Island that have more obscure origins. The Mare Island Grapevine of March 27, 1953 ran an interesting article explaining the origins of some of those names.


“Gishville, Snake Ranch, Little Siberia and Dublin all are, or were, names of areas of Mare Island --- and where they came from makes for some interesting reading into the history of the West Coast’s greatest naval shipyard.  Most simple to trace down were the names “Snake Ranch” and “Little Siberia.” The Snake Ranch is that area from which the finger piers extend at the southern end of Mare Island.  Back in the days prior to the filling in of that section to turn it into workable area, it was, according to old timers, alive with snakes of many and varied descriptions, including rattlesnakes.

“The fact that in recent years a rattlesnake or so has turned up dead on the ammunition depot grounds, just south of the area in question, bears out the statement.

Mare Island's "Elephant Train"
“Little Siberia in the days BET (Before Elephant Train)* was just what its name implies---an outpost, a haven for exiles, and a heck of a place to get to and from if a person were relegated to shanks mare. Now well built up and full of buildings, the Siberia of yesterday no longer is little, for it fills most of the north end of the shipyard---but it holds its name.

“After all, you have to go “far” north to get there.

“Siberia once was all marsh and water. Old timers (the same ones as mentioned before) recall getting into boats around what is now Third street, and going duck hunting in the area around the lumber storage yard and on north.

“Dublin was a real, live settlement of a dozen or so families which strung out up a hill that no longer is there. The hill stood where the dispensary and supply building 483 now are located and was leveled in the not too distant past.

“Families who lived in Dublin---so named for its large Irish population---included the Horns, Jamison’s, Pearcy’s, Knowland’s, O’Brien’s, McGee’s, Tiernans and Baker’s. There were others, too.

“The Wards and the O’Briens “belong” to the “city,” but actually lived near where the old stables now stand.

“Times were good for the residents of Dublin. The youngsters had the run of the place and went swimming on the “sandy” beaches on the west side of the island.  Yes, we said “sandy.” They had sports teams which competed against town teams from Vallejo and the Navy ran small tugs back and forth across the channel to town --- free for nothing.

“If they couldn’t get a tug, Dublin’s townspeople usually could get a ride with a Mare Island worker who was rowing to work. It was not uncommon to see 10 or 12 men in a longboat making with the oars on their way to or from work.

“Groceries ordered in Vallejo were delivered by ferry to the shipyard and then to the houses by one-horse buggy. The large fruit orchards which once stood behind “officers’ row” were fine places to supplement a lagging menu.

“Gishville, on the other hand, is of fairly recent birth as far as names are concerned. It did not exist by name until World War II.
“During the war the area bounded by Shop 31, Shop 51 and structural shops on the south and west, were used for layout and prefab work of all kinds and was under the supervision of the shipfitters.

“The man who was in charge of the area was Griffin R. Gish, a leadingman shipfitter, who had charge of the “assembly field.”  Gish, who now works in supply joined the shipfitter shop in August,1927. He was promoted to leadingman in 1940 --- just in time to lend his name to Mare Island’s history.”

* The “Elephant Trains” were used at the Treasure Island World’s Fair of 1939-40 to transport visitors around the Fairgrounds. When the Fair closed, the trains were transferred to Mare Island where they were used to convey workers around the Shipyard.