Oakland artists make strong showing in new San Francisco exhibition

Over 200 Alameda County artists — many living and working in Oakland — joined the ranks of world-renowned names when their works graced the walls of the de Young Museum in San Francisco on Tuesday.

In its second year, the “de Young Open 2023” is an exhibition for visual artists from the nine Bay Area counties. It debuted Tuesday to the press and its 883 contributing artists, including 209 hailing from Alameda County. 

Hundreds of people spilled into the seven cavernous rooms of the Herbst Exhibition space and took in the spectacle of deep aubergine walls and pedestals filled with paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs, textiles and digital art. Conversations echoed off the walls as artists mingled and shared their works with the media and each other.

Chase Irvan stands in front of her painting. She is wearing a black sweater over a collared white shirt and black braids. The painting is of a Black woman in black yoga pants and a black sports bra, holding a white towel, with her back toward the camera and her face turned toward it, covering her mouth with the towel.
Chase Irvin stands with her painting, “Ghost Story II.” (Lisa Plachy)

“It’s big. It’s a shock. It still doesn’t feel real,” said Oakland artist Chase Irvin, 32, describing both the event and the fact that her piece was selected for it. A dark and richly layered acrylic painting, “Ghost Story II” addresses, through elements in shadow and forefront, dissociation and “the opposite of feeling kind of overwhelmed by the things and objects in my life,” she said.

A few rooms away, artist Angie Wilson, 43, also of Oakland, peered over “Welcome Loneliness,” one of a series of welcome mats she created during the pandemic. Made from scraps of Wilson and her ex-wife’s favorite pairs of jeans, it speaks to the universal human experience of loneliness and invites viewers to make peace with uncomfortable feelings, she said.

Though her piece addresses isolation, Wilson, a former artist in residence at the de Young Museum, feels a sense of belonging in the Oakland community.

“I don’t have to pretend I’m not queer,” she said, referring to the open-mindedness and support she’s experienced. “People are very accepting here.”

Artist Lisa Plachy in red dress, black tights, black sweater, black mask and long brown hair looks at her work, which appears to be a large rock with smaller tocks in it.
Angie Wilson views her piece, “Welcome Loneliness.” (Lisa Plachy)

Esteban Raheem Abdul Raheem Samayoa, 29, was excited and thankful to be part of the show. “I think what makes me more happy is that other people like myself can see, ‘Oh, you know, it’s possible to be in a museum,’” he said. His black-and-white charcoal drawing “The Letter P” offers an imposing, 3-foot tall close-up of someone’s hands decked out in thick rings.

“You can always tell a lot with people’s hands,” he said.

The strong presence of Oakland artists also elevates the city’s art scene, which doesn’t always carry the same level of recognition as San Francisco’s.

“Oakland is such a uniquely cultural city and yet we don’t have that large, loud supported art institution or art community on that same level,” said Callan Porter-Romero, 28, whose colorful piece “Bubbles’ Secret Garden” depicts her grandmother, an Oakland resident of 50 years, caring for a lush and verdant garden.

“There is so much potential for Oakland to have the cultural impact it’s always deserved.” 

Oakland Museum shines ‘overdue light’ on works by artists with disabilities

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