I have written about Mark Bulwinkle and his work many times, more certainly than I have written about anybody.
It is fitting, for when I was hatching the idea for Quirky Berkeley and talked the idea over with a mentor and inspiration Sally Woodward, she said two words – “Mark Bulwinkle.”
And it is fitting because he is screamingly quirky and oh so prolific.
And so it is fitting to write about him again.
Bulwinkle has begun a transition from Oakland/Berkeley to Joshue Tree. I don’t know if he will leave us completely, but he has been steadily and incrementally moving steel 500 miles south from Oakland to 29 Palms.
I visited him there in September, surprising him at an opening of a show of his art. I briefly saw his world and his work there in the desert.
I spent good times in the Imperial and Coachella Valleys between 1972 and 1980 with the United Farm Workers. I have posted about the beautiful date palms of the Coachella Valley. I have great affection for the desert, The Eagles singing “I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight/ with a million stars all around” was an anthem that I carried in me for those years. That love of the desert adds to my appreciation of Bulwinkle’s art there.
The Harrison House with its residency program for artists and musicians has been one of the great draws to the desert for Bulwinkle. He made his gate into the property with steel from the dismantled western section of the Bay Bridge. I have blogged about the gate and Harrison House here.
This is Bulwinkle’s desert house in a photo from a few years ago.
Add some desert plants.
Add some Bulwinkle steel art. Steel! The plants have grown. And will grow.
Get the picture? Yes, we see.
These photos are intended to show the density of the pieces on his land.
The crepuscular light of dusk makes Bulwinkle’s steel magic.
The bright sun of mid-day and the desert plants also give the steel a boost.
Yes indeed. Steel!
He has moved some of his painted metal pieces down to the desert. They shine, day or night.
Inside Bulwinkle’s house, and at the Harrison House, are many more pieces of his work.
And – and – and – there are a number of big steel pieces with words or names. Bulwinkle is a fantastic namer. This post is already a tad long, so I will just send you here to see the named pieces.
One thinks of Joshua Tree as being hot hot hot dry hot, but one forgets that it does snow.
I remember a horrendous drive through snow in the high desert in December 1972, driving back to California from Christmas in Pennsylvania. It can really snow.
So there it is – Bulwinkle’s work in the desert. I am a sucker for videos of chimps who have spent their lives in lab cages walking on grass and climbing trees for the first time. I have that sense with Bulwinkle’s steel – it rejoices at the sun and sand of Joshua Tree. This is where it was meant to be.
I showed the draft post to my friend. He looked through it and before telling me what he thought, he said, “Didn’t you two, you and Bulwinkle, grow up kind of close to each other?”
True dat. He grew up in Weston, Massachusetts, in this house.
I lived in Sudbury, nearby, for two years, and in Lincoln for kindergarten, first and second grade. Lincoln and Weston share a border.
My friend asked me about growing up in Lincoln. I told him that there was history everywhere.
We went to the toy store in Concord and saw this bridge every time. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this about the bridge: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood/ Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled/ Here once the embattled farmers stood/ And fired the shot heard round the world.”
When we shopped in Lexington – this. Sidney Lanier: “Now haste thee while the way is clear, Paul Revere! / Haste, Dawes! but haste thee not, oO Sun! to Lexington.”
We went swimming in Walden Pond. Thoreau wrote “The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring.” I was not a good swimmer.
Benny Shambaugh’s dad took us to the dump (big fun!) and then for ice cream cones very near the spot where Paul Revere was captured. Longfellow: “A cry of defiance, and not of fear/ A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door/And a word that shall echo forevermore!” Revere was interrogated by the British and released later that night, although they kept his horse.
I have a vague memory of blackberry ice cream.
Lincoln was a great place to be a little boy. I played in the woods by myself for hours. I had a rich inner life.
Davey Crockett was big, very big. I was Davey Crockett in the woods. Little boy Tom Dalzell, I remember you.
Enough about Lincoln – what does my friend think of the post?