Michael and Becky O’Malley have lived at 2910 Ashby Avenue since 1973. Hey! When I came to Berkeley in 1973 I often stayed with my friend Jeff Lewis who was living on Ashby within a block or two of the O’Malley house. Small world! All about me!
In the fall of 2013 they decided that they would build a fence to keep their dog in the yard. This art installation is what they ended up with. Here is how:
1) They decided that they didn’t want fresh lumber. They wanted to used recycled materials.
2) They went to Urban Ore. They were hooked with up Max Bechtel and together they designed a door fence.
3) Max came to their place and saw Michael’s sculpture in the yard. He suggested that they use the fence of doors to showcase the sculpture.
That was it. A fence of doors showing sculpture.
Michael O’Malley made these sculptures. He doesn’t sell his sculpture. He just makes them. He had a career in software, specializing in text-to-speech conversion technology.
On April 1, 2003, Becky and Michael O’Malley began publishing the then-shut-down Berkeley Daily Planet, but only twice a week, Tuesday and Friday. They kept the word “Daily” in the paper’s name. Quirky! Michael was listed as publisher, and Becky as executive editor. Under their guidance, the paper won a number of awards from the California Newspaper Publishers’ Association and other organizations, including first prizes for its opinion page, which publishes lengthy reader-written commentaries, and the editorial cartoons of Justin DeFreitas. She still writes for the Planet.
Which is neither here nor there when it comes to the fence of doors. Michael works in ceramics and, at times, stone cutting. His ceramics are not in the “pots for mommy” school. They are bold and, at times frightening.
The lying woman was originally a standing woman. Gravity and rain brought her down. O’Malley has left her down. She looks happy down.
These legs were originally the bottom half of a two-piece full figure. O’Malley liked the bottom half and so there it is, legs up to waist.
The middle shelf is Lilith and Eve (Knowledge and Innocence). We all know Eve, but Lilith? Jewish mythology. A female demon. Enticed Eve into enticing Adam with the apple. Temptation! End of paradise?
The lower shelf we see Europa and the bull. Zeus disguised himself as a bull and carried Europa from Asia Minor to Crete, where she founded the Minoan civilization.
Ashby is a business street, not ideal (some say) or optimal (I say) for quirk. But there are a couple big time quirky manifestations on Marin which is busy too. O’Malley speaks of the constant traffic of people taking photos of his wall of doors with sculpture.
I initially walked Ashby before the installation went up. Damn! Fortunately, Rachel O’Malley wrote suggesting that I check out what her parents had done. Thank you Rachel.
I took the photos for my friend to see. He loved the doors but recoiled when he saw the snake heads and tentacles. Bad news! Okay. Let’s just look at the wall of doors. And the woman lying down. And Lilith and Europa. What about them?