You have seen it driving up Marin, just before Colusa, the cluster of folk art.
Conny Bleul-Gohlke lives in the house and made this art. She is an autodidact, which I like more than the simpler and clearer “self-taught.” And she has done many other things very well.
She and her husband and first child moved to Berkeley from Berlin in 2002. She thought that she was coming for 11 months. She is still here. She has three children. And she has brought an eclectic, passionate and zealous genius to all that she has done.
She is a well-known and highly respected birth doula, giving assistance and advice to a new or expectant mother, either informally or professionally, especially providing guidance and continuous support during labor. That fancy definition was more or less courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary.
She was a world-class swimmer, swimming on the German National Team, the 1984 German Olympic Team (injured so did not compete), and in Berkeley on the Aquatic Masters team. She has a PhD in Philosophy, has worked as teacher for going-on 30 years, and is working towards a degree in Museum Studies at UST. Are you starting to feel lazy and unaccomplished?
And she is an artist. Let’s break down the art on Marin.
First, the garage door, very Disneyesque. People stop and admire the trompe-l’œil .
The pigs and duck in the ivy are kitsch incarnate.
If doula and swimmer and artist were not enough, Conny took up windsurfing. She got to know the guys at the Cal Sailing Team. She convinced them and they convinced her that the shacks and storage containers at their spot on the Marina were destined to be her canvas.
What an eclectic mix of styles! There is no pigeon-holing her styles. One minute she is Very Pop:
The next she is Banksy:
My favorite of the Marina murals is a tribute to a famous mural in East Berlin from the time of the Berlin Wall’s collapse. It depicts a Trabant sedan bursting through the wall. The Trabant was manufactured in the former East Germany by VEB Sachsenring Autombilwerke Zwickau. The Trabant mural here is a tribute to a 1989 Berlin mural on the East Side Gallery, near Berlin Ostbahnhof, a train station.
Bleul-Gohlke paints furniture as well. I don’t have photos of most of her furniture work and it isn’t public art and so I wouldn’t show them if I had them – except for the two photos I do have. Like her murals, her furniture work defies simple categorizing. Check this out:
I’m sorry. I just find this amazing. It is a wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, a striking piece of art, and a metaphor for the exploration of Berkeley in search of quirky material culture.
And I learned at the Quirky Berkeley 2015 Holiday Party that she also makes clothing/shoes.
Bleul-Gohlke is a textbook example of what makes Berkeley Berkeley. She is an eclectic genius of the highest degree. She excels and gifts her work to her adopted second city. Thank you Berlin for giving us your daughter.
I showed the photos to my friend. He was absorbed in letter games:
B E R l i n
B E R k e l e y
M A R I N
M A R I N a
Using the common letters BER and MARIN, he formed 192 4-letter, 5-letter, 6-letter, and 7-letter words, but he hadn’t come up with an 8-letter word using all 8 letters. Using the variant letters LIN and KELEY and A, he formed 190 4-letter to 7-letter words, but couldn’t get past 7. He was frustrated.
He has a theory that any music recorded live in Berlin is better for having been recorded live in Berlin. And one of his favorite books is set in Berlin: