Artist's Comments on The East Bay Bridge Shopping Center Project, or Bulwinkle Plaza

In 1992 a representative for Catellus Corporation, the real estate wing of Southern Pacific Railway, asked me to do some art work for a shopping center his company was creating on land they owned about a quarter mile away from where I lived and worked in West Oakland, California. I said yes and we agreed on a price and approximately how many pieces I would create for the large space, which Delmonte Cannery formerly occupied. The representative was familiar with my work from a very well known sculpture I had created in another part of Oakland over a period of fifteen years. (Burning down the house) I had left that place recently and was now living in a very different world in another part of Oakland, California. I was broke and recovering from illness and glad to get the work doing what I considered my work, which I had been entertaining myself (and many other kindred souls) with since 1968. The sculptures that resulted are what you see on the Bulwinkle Plaza page of my web site. This imagery has nothing to do with anything but my own fantasies of what I see all around me and my interpretation, with steel, of our life. It does have something to do with some very honest and beautifully skilled hand burning and welding, something I picked up after spending about thirteen-thousand hours of my life building and repairing ships through the Boilermakers Union, an organization that now pays me a modest and hard earned pension. It also displays an exquisit sense of graphic design, something I picked up from many years spent as a printmaker. I recall a professional academic asking me once in front of a bunch of beaureaucrats and other academic artists what informed my art. I found the language she used so entirely odious that I answered with my typical arrogance that my work was informed by me, which in fact it is. While innumerable events and experiences have contributed to making me who I am, that question has always seemed far too complex to answer with a simple "sound-bite" reply.

All of the steel sculptures you see on the Bulwinkle Plaza (East Bay Bridge Shopping Center) page were created by me at my studio/yard and installed by me with the help of an old ship yard buddy. Having always considered my work a craft based art form, I never use an assistant and prefer to do my own work. One of the most common questions asked about this project is, "What are those sculptures doing there?" To this I always respond, somewhat Socratically, "Do you mean what is art doing in a public place?"

Mark Bulwinkle, 2012


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