Debbie Vinograd has lived and painted in Berkeley since 1974.
She was born in Berkeley in 1951. While she was young, her parents moved to southern California. Her father was Jerome Vinograd.
This is a portrait by Debbie of her father.
This photograph of Vinograd is from the archives of the California Institute of Technology, where he taught biochemistry. He specialized in density gradient ultracentrifugation and DNA supercoiling. Debbie says that he was announced to have won a Nobel Prize and died with the plane tickets in his pocket.
When Debbie finished college in 1973 she came to visit her big sister Julia in Berkeley.
Julia, a poet who has been part of the DNA of Berkeley for almost 50 years, opened magical Berkeley doors for Debbie.
Debbie likened Julia’s introduction to Berkeley to their girls days when they sat by a Ming lamp in her grandfather’s house. The girls thought that the lamp’s name was Ming. They – mostly Julia – made up stories about Ming’s life. There were five green marbles. Julia told Debbie stories about the marbles. I’ll bet that these were marvelous stories.
So it was in Berkeley. Magical doors opening. To this day, most of Debbie’s friends are from Julia’s world – poets, not painters.
Vinograd paints. Constantly.
The three painters she admires the most are Van Gogh, Mark Rothko, and Leonora Carrington.
Van Gogh and Rothko you probably know. Carrington was an English surrealist who lived and painted in Mexico.
Some of Vinograd’s paintings:
This is the first in a series that Vinograd is now painting. Instead of painting where she felt she was supposed to paint, she let her hand take the brush where she wanted to paint.
This is Jacqueline Cooper, formerly the Executive Director of Autobody Fine Art in Alameda.
This painting is truly remarkable. On my third visit it was hanging on a sunny wall at the top of the stairs leading up to Vinograd’s apartment. There has to be somebody out there who sees the glory of this painting and wants to buy it, no?
This is a friend of Vinograd’s, MK Chavez, a writer and a champion of public health. She is the author of Virgin Eyes (Zeitgeist Press). Mothermorphosis (Nomadic Press) was released in March 2016 and was followed by her full-length collection Dear Animal, (Nomadic Press). Chavez is co-founder/co-curator of the Berkeley-based monthly reading series Lyrics & Dirges, and the co-director of the Berkeley Poetry Festival. She believes in literary confrontation and its capacity to obliterate all forms of oppression.
What dignity in this man’s face!
David Kern made this lamp from Tom Tuthill collages. Wow!
Sheri Tharpe carved this mask. I have posted about her – small world! After Debbie’s sister Julia, Sheri is the first to see Debbie’s new paintings. Small world!
Vinograd spotted these fairies at Urban Ore and for months tried to buy them, only to be told that they were not for sale. In the end, she was gifted them. And she has painted them.
Vinograd’s apartment is also about Tom Tuthill, her partner until his death in 2009.
He used scissors and glue. His workspace was just off the kitchen. It is virtually unchanged in the years since his death.
Tuthill’s world – Burroughs and bats, macabre and beat.
His art is on the apartment walls. Here is some of it:
Literature from a 2011 exhibition of the work of Vinograd and Tuthill says of his collages: “He left behind literally thousands of similarly sized, intricately fabricated, collaged postcards. Ranging from nearly abstract, the torn jagged edges of pieces of paper defining areas of intense color, to works of dense symbology with a spattering of text, these artworks were carefully stored in photograph albums, ordered chronologically as the pieces were finished.” More about him – in that literature.
Vinograd clarifies that few of the collages were abstract or nearly abstract or had torn jagged edges. These were what Tuthill called “rip-ups.” They evoked Dada.
There are shoeboxes filled with Tuthill collages, and more than 30 portfolios.
Vinograd has her grandfather’s bookcase in her bedroom. It too is filled with one-off Tuthill collage postcards.
Of the bookcase, Julia said: “That involves explaining Grandpa Ben’s bookcase. It was one of those old-fashioned glass front bookcases and you locked the little glass doors with the key and mother kept the key in a candy dish on top of the bookcase and I wasn’t supposed to get anywhere near it. When I was supposed to be in bed and asleep, I’d wait until they were asleep, get on a stool, climb up to the top of the bookcase, steal the key, open the bookcase, choose a book and get a knife because many of the books hadn’t even had their pages slit and I’d take a flashlight and the knife to bed with me and read a book. That was exciting. They weren’t always what I was looking for, but I knew it was a forbidden pleasure. I’d get in trouble if they caught me. My grandfather had some very strange books. The complete works of Arthur Machen. De Quincey for God’s sake. de Sade. Tolkien: Combine Winnie the Pooh and the Wagner Ring Trilogy.”
Vinograd and Tuthill have created more art in their lifetimes than could be expected of ten artists in several lifetimes. Each collage and each painting tells a story, just as Julia Vinograd told stories based on five green marbles.
My friend is as enchanted by the five green marbles story as I am. He mentioned, of course, David and the five smooth stones that he selected before going into battle with Goliath.
And my friend is every bit as enchanted with the bright colors of that still-life as I am. And he keyed in on the “magical doors” that were opened for Vinograd when she first came to Berkeley. “Magical doors opening indeed” is what he said, thinking of his early days here.
There still are magical doors in Berkeley, but not as many and not as easily found, but they are here and you never know when you will walk through one. The nexus is not obvious, but I am reminded of the words of the hymn “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”:
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
The point is – Berkeley is still bright with joyous saints, with people who, in Kerouac’s words, “are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” We still have magic doors.
The joy of art and color and the great love affair of Debbie Vinograd and Tom Tuthill scream BIG LOVE. This is the Berkeley I love.
A show of Vinograd’s paintings is scheduled for July at Jumpin’ Java, a coffee house at 6606 Shattuck Avenue.
What does my friend think of these photos?