On Eighth Street between Virginia and Delaware is an elegant and simple ode to kitsch.
Nothing says kitsch like a begging raccoon.
Are you starting to see what I meant about elegant and simple?
This plastic log cabin mail box may surpass / transcend the word “tacky.” There are no socially redeemable features. Pure junk.
From the house of Joe Slusky and Katie Hawkinson next door, you can look down into the Ortiz family yard looking west.
In November I began interviewing Joe Slusky and Kate Hawkinson for future blogs. They live next to the Ortiz family and its ode to kitsch. From Joe and Kate’s we got this shot of the yard from the southeast.
What then, in the words of Dion Francis DiMucci (better known mononymously as Dion) is the moral of the story from a guy who knows?
The moral of the story is that quirk knows no bounds. Education, income, artistic training – none of these control quirk. Here in the flats, home to Berkeley’s rapidly vanishing economic diversity, is old-school quirk. I love it all.
I had to send the draft post via internet to my friend. He is currently in Viola, Wisconsin, picking up a General Electric eye-level wall refrigerate. He called me after looking at the post.
“Cool post. I’m going to Dickeyville, it’s only an hour north of here.
“There is a church/shrine/grotto to die for. Gotta go see it. I’m leaving in an hour.”
I asked that before he dashed off he give me a fuller impression of the Ortiz family quirk.
I have always maintained that the difference between “kitsch” and “camp” is that when an objet d’art is consciously recognized as possessing questionable aesthetic value, then it is deemed “camp”.
On the other hand, when the owner of the object is blissfully unaware of its lack of artistic value, then it is then deemed “kitsch”.
The North Berkeley neighborhood around 8th St. indeed seems to have a pervasive aura that invites kitsch.
I can recall seeing a delightfully tasteless pair of gold-painted plaster conquistadores flanking a front porch on 8th or 9th St. near James Kenney Park.
You can take the quirky out of Berkeley, but you can’t take Berkeley out of quirky, to ruin a metaphorical adage.
As Berkeley expatriates moving to Richmond, my late wife decided that we needed to “fit in” with our neighbors so she installed pink plastic flamingos in our front yard.
That soon developed into an annual flamingo crèche, replete with three wise geese and a duckling in a cradle, with a sign that read, “For Unto Us A Chick Is Hatched.”
As we lived on a street with three churches, I was certain that we would soon be surrounded by protesting parishioners, but to my astonishment, our yard instead quickly became a local tourist attraction.
Additional seasonal tableaus were added to celebrate a host of holidays including Thanksgiving and Easter.
When we moved to El Sobrante, my wife built in our front yard what she called a “Shrine Of Blasphemy”, consisting of a grotto made of a toilet bowl turned on its back and decorated with a profusion of religious kitsch votive artifacts.
It stood for many years until a winter storm blew down a nearby tree which destroyed it and and an archway trellis decorated with a large collection of pink flamingos.
Perhaps this was belated vengeance from an angry god who professed that artiness is next to godliness…