Susan Brooks has her studio in the Sawtooth Building on Eighth Street between Dwight and Parker.
It is also known as the Kawneer Building; it is a West Berkeley industrial building that is home to a variety of small buinesses – including artisans, craftspeople, tradespeople, engineers, consultants, designers, fine artists, small industries, performance groups, theathers and a variety of schools.
I have written about Susan Brooks twice before. My first post had a long name – Susan Brooks – Mirth and Desire, Stances and Glances, Work that’s Quirk and For Sale. I later published a blog featuring photos of some of her sketch books, showing a creative mind at work.
She represents the most perfect or typical example of Quirky Berkeley, and so we visited again in early 2020 to see what is new and to pick her brain on ideas for a nascent Quirky Berkeley art project.
Of all the friends that I have made in my now seven years of Quirky Berkeley, she is one of the very best. She lives in a world of magic and creativity and obsession and art, and every once in a while she lets me peek in, even will let me wander a little. I am, I think, her brother from another mother.
She has painted wooden blocks “yummy colors” and uses them to display her work. I love love LOVE LOVE these blocks to little tiny bits.
In “Idiot Wind,” Bob Dylan sings “I can’t even touch the books you’ve read.” I mention this because why? Because I can’t even touch the colors that Susan Brooks makes and her use of the colored blocks.
Zippy the Pinhead was created by Bill Griffith. He made his first appearance in “Real Pulp Comics #1” in March 1971, published by our very own Print Mint. Zippy liked to say, “Are We Having Fun Yet?”
I mention Zippy why? Because pinhead leads to pinhead.
Susan Brooks created her penheads with pen nibs – the pointed end part of a pen, which distributes the ink on the writing surface. We placed the penny in the photo to give you a sense of their size. Small.
Susan’s sister Kathe Kaufmann died in September 2016.
In February 2017, Brooks channeled her grief into a project – making small figurines as part of an undertaking she calls “Objects of Desire & Mirth.” She has now made 500 of a planned series of 1000 pieces.
In his Odes, Horace wrote of the Venus,”blithe goddess of Eryx, about whom hover Mirth and Desire.” Mirth and desire were examples of divine polarity, which fascinated Horace,
Monte Erice, or ancient Greek Mount Eryx, is a mountain of Sicily, in the province of Trapani.
For several pieces, Brooks uses book sculptures made by her Sawtooth neighbor Jim Rosenau, about whom I will post soon.
What does one do when life gives you orange peels?
With orange peels she cut these hands.
And then she makes paintings – these new paintings –
There is new jewelry too, but it was too hard to segregate it out for photos. All the jewelry rocks.
John Storey didn’t make a photo of Susan during this visit to use in this post (not a criticism of John), so we will just have to use an old one.
Susan dabbled in music before finding her groove with graphic art.
My friend strolled in from his quarters to see the draft post. I sensed he had news. He did.
“Heard from Earl. He found Duke. In Marquette, Wisonsin. He sent a kind of long story of what happened, here.
WOW – First twins and now triplets. Who knew?
It’s been too long since I posted. Covid 19 and our Commander in Chief have had a way of decreasing my productivity.
The lag in posting has also meant a lag in keeping you up to date on your favorite subject – MOI.
I present here photos that have come my way that may interest you.
Demolition Derby! The man on the right is Criswell Davis, one of my very best friends since we were in 8th grade in 1964-1965. This photo was made in the early 1970s while he attended Colorado College. Criswell and his friend Tad competed in several derbies. Criswell here proves that he can look like a million dollars no matter what clothes you stick him in.
I have posted several times about the Berkeley quirky genius Jon Balderston. Some weeks ago, I told him that if he were (subjunctive!) as big a fan of Quirky Berkeley as he professes to be, he would mimic Roger J. Stone, who has a tattoo image of Trump on his (Stone’s) back.
Balderston complied. He used a dot drawing of me from the Wall Street Journal of about ten years ago. Balderston has been tested and Balderston has emerged a champion.
This is Noble Brigham. He is to graduate from the Episcopal Academy outside Philadelphia in June. I graduated in 1969 and met him at my 50th reunion in 2019. He is pictured with a Kimbel and Cabus desk that he found in a storage unit in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. Kimbel and Cabus was a Victorian-era furniture and decorative arts firm based in New York City. The partnership was formed in 1862 between German-born cabinetmaker Anthony Kimbel (c. 1821–1895) and French-born cabinetmaker Joseph Cabus (1824–1894).
The company was noted for its Modern Gothic and Anglo-Japanese style furniture, which it popularized at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Modern Gothic, also known as Reformed Gothic, was an Aesthetic Movement style of the 1860s and 1870s in architecture, furniture and decorative arts. A rebellion against the excessive ornament of Second Empire and Rococo Revival furniture, it advocated simplicity and honesty of construction, and ornament derived from nature.
Noble found himself a museum-quality piece. Not bad for a high school boy, right? He has many interests and collections. I see a Quirky Berkeley notional field trip to visit him in the near future.
Noble is light years ahead of me. His father is President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I am keeping my eye on Noble.
Before posting the final photo, I want to mention my use of two spaces after a period. It is how I was taught when Mr. Davenport taught his A Form (6th grade) class to touch type in 1962-1963. Now, I hear, there is a drive to use a single space. I was worried. I asked a Friend Whom I Trust whether I should try to move to single space after period. This Friend wrote me: “Please do not. This is a misguided attempt by millenials to make their mark on history by destroying the English language. First indecipherable acronyms, then the assault on the Oxford (serial) comma [,] and now this.” Big sigh of relief. Reprieve. Vindication. History will absolve me.
Lastly, I almost hesitate to post this final photo. I own several photos of Young Emily but have never posted one.
My friend Gabby sent this photo to me. He sats ub a bite that it shows Young Emily in the summer of 1970, which is when she and Gabby launched their astonishing lifetime together. That was 50 years ago. Imagine that. I can’t vouch for certain that this is Young Emily – a lot of time as passed. But would Gabby lie about this?
Oh. My. God. Youth and innocence and hope and beauty. O God of Youth whose spirit in our hearts is stirring…
I met her that summer and was pretty tight with her mother, Tavia, who lived on Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia, near Clark Park. Clark Park is home to “Dickens and Little Nell,” a bronze sculpture by Francis Edwin Elwell that depicts Charles Dickens and Nell Trent, a character in his novel The Old Curiosity Shop. It is one of just two known statues of Dickens, who said he wanted no such representations. In his will he wrote: “I conjure to my friends on no account to make me the subject of any monument, memorial or testimonial whatsoever. I rest my claims to the remembrance of my country upon my published works.” The second statue of Dickens is near his home city of Portsmouth, a port city in Hampshire, England, I have not seen it.
Gabby and I spent some quality time together in Philadelphia in early 1969 and then 1970 when he was working on the UFW grape boycott and I was at Penn and then on the boycott in the summer. We hung out lots, that is – until he met Young Emily. At that point, Gabby’s time with me kind of vanished. Fine della commedia. I have no hard feelings. The opposite.
Okay – my friend is getting really pushy about Earl’s report on finding Duke. I said I’d read through it but in the meantime wanted to know what my friend thought of the Susan Brooks post. He was ready to give me his impression.