I am careful about using the word “kitsch.” I think that we should be cautious about making aesthetic judgments. We each discern and delight in beauty differently. Unless we are absolutely sure that we can make reliable judgments about the nature of beauty, we should stand down when it comes to making judgments. Something that seems to some to be crude or lacking beauty will seem to others to be beautiful.
So – the point is – judge not lest ye be judged. The mote and the beam and all that. You don’t hear “mote” a lot -it’s a tiny piece of a substance.
“Kitsch” is used to mean art that appeals to popular or uncultivated taste because it is garish or overly sentimental. Sometimes it takes the form of so-bad-it’s-good, bad taste presented with irony by someone with good taste, which then strays into the territory of camp. And sometimes it is just plain sentimental with no irony intended.
Quirky Berkeley is a big-tent operation. We embrace haute quirk and kitsch equally, without an aesthetic hierarchy or judgment. We make a cultural judgment. And using this criteria, La Escuelita on Colusa is officially designated Quirky.
Colusa near La Escuelita is the artistic domain of Mark Olivier and his beach-trash art. Olivier’s house is at 1118 Colusa, with several dozen pieces in his front yard. I can think of six houses within a block of Olivier’s house that display his work in their yards.
And then a little farther north at 1017 Colusa there is La Escuelita. It is a daycare facility run by Carlos Baraza. Online reviews sing its praises.
For about five years, Baraza has decorated the front yard. He changes the display several times a year. As you might imagine, Christmas is a Big Deal. In June 2017, here was the array:
I found a few photos that I took of the Escuelita in February 2013, before the bark and stone took over.
“I dig those squat, short-bodied, tailless amphibians,” said my friend. He’d been out walking not at all far from Colusa with a Quirky Berkeley disciple who was intent on showing just how much quirk one can find in one block if one pays very close attention. When this disciple shows me their photographs from a one-block walk, I am inspired and humbled. Walking (almost) every block of (almost) every street, I know that I missed quirk. I am glad that others are out looking. I am not alone!
I am also glad that the Inclusion Committee of Quirky Berkeley opted for Big Tent. With no aesthetic judgment and without apology I will continue presenting quirky kitsch. Why not? it is gift to the street. It is quirky. This is a liberating moment for me!
I asked my friend for his overall assessment of La Escuelita with its short-bodied, tailless amphibians.