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A Fish Out of Water
by Betty Parshall

Art is all around us in Visitacion Valley. Murals grace the walls of commercial buildings. Sculptures complement the platforms on the T-Line Stations. Mosaics adorn our schools and parks. Over the next several months the Grapevine will feature the variety of art found throughout our community. We hope this series will give a new life to the overlooked and under appreciated works of art in our neighborhood. We hope you will enjoy this journey.

ome people call it "the whale house." The vintage home on Delta at Tioga Avenue is graced on the side most visible from the street by a mural dominated by a huge blue whale. It's about all you'll see if you ride by in a car or bus. But in fact the front and the southern side of the house are also works of mural art.

Current owner Opal Essence, who has lived there since 1991, explained how the murals came into existence. A former neighbor had given her a memorial piece written about a remarkable woman, Blanche M. Baker, who had lived in the house from about 1948 until her death in 1960. (More about the house and Baker can be found in this month's Visitacion Valley History column.) Having lived there for awhile, Opal was staying in Hawaii and while enjoying the peace and beauty of the islands began to feel that Blanche Baker should be honored at the house in some way, and so conceived the idea of an artistic decoration.

Back home, Opal, who is an artist herself, informed her neighbors of her plan and then contacted several artist friends, inviting them to take part in creating a mural. Several responded with enthusiasm and over a weekend exerted their talents and energy to create what we can enjoy today. Good fellowship ran high; one person prepared food and drink and all the artists enjoyed being treated so well while exercising their talents with a free hand.

Opal provided the names of artists who had contributed to the murals and most have web sites where some of their works can be viewed, as well as their goals and philosophy about their art. The following information is quoted from a few of these sites.

Mars-1, also known as Mario Martinez, is a left-handed artist who spends most of his time in the right side of his brain, communicating through a visual language. Early inspirations include graffiti, animation, comic book characters, and mysteries of the universe. His imagery is ultimately left to the viewer's interpretation. He feels this brings his creations full circle, encouraging the viewer to not only decipher the messages he wishes to convey but to receive thoughts and ideas of their own, as well.

Damon Soule was "spontaneously infused in our solar system via the magnolia state, 1974, and began expanding annually in a location sometimes referred to as the crescent city. Around the age of four he began work on his lifelong pursuit concerning the application of homogenous forms to linear topography." A timeline of his "thought experiments" can be viewed at his web site under the title artwork archived.

Amanda Sage was born in 1978 in Denver, Colorado. "Her childhood was filled with healthy, tropical, media-free, creative freedom in Florida without the distraction of formal schooling until she entered 4th grade in Colorado." Her art is a "language in which she converses with the world, spirit, herself and the people around her."

Graffiti artist Estria produced a ‘universal goddess' that includes the sun, moon, earth, face and body on the south side of Opal's home. He developed the Graffiti Battles event that now takes place in various cities all over the country.

When we asked Opal how so much amazing art was produced in such a short time she explained that graffiti artists work fast before they can be chased away and at the same time have to be good so their work won't be painted over. Here is Estria on the subject. "Graffiti is very collaborative, possibly the most collaborative 2D visual art ever. It is spontaneous and fun. Graffiti has a creation side and destruction side, and we're clearly promoting the creative side. We're not encouraging vandalism. The discussion is how can we create more murals, get more opportunities for artists."

Additional participants were Apex, Nome Edonna, and Scatha Allison. Fascinating hours can be spent visiting the web sites to view the work and learn more about these very talented people.

Many thanks to Opal for her generous hospitality and sharing of information with The Grapevine.

Opal Essence


Jacqueline Cooper appointed Photography and Video Coordinator of Alameda
County Fair

Michael Horse

A Fish Out of Water