Sunday, March 15, 2015

Christine Oliver in Redwood City

The artist Christine Oliver lives across the street from me. Recently she was invited by the Arts Council of Redwood City, which is trying to inspire an arts renaissance in their town, to paint one of its utility boxes. All urban areas are dotted with ugly metal boxes containing controls for various utilities. In recent years there has been a whimsical trend to decorate these eyesores.

Christine devoted several chilly weeks in December and January to this difficult task. When it was completed, and after a delay for a severe storm, an "opening" celebration was held around the utility box on a corner in Redwood City. Circumstances caused us to arrive late, but I observed that the Mayor of Redwood City was there as well as one or more members of the Arts Council, and quite a few loyal fans of Christine's. We got there in time for pro seco and snacks, provided by the the artist and her husband, Paul, who are indefatigable hosts.

As one of the earliest utility boxes in the decorating project, Christine thought it should represent some of the architectural bright spots in this rather colorful and old-fashioned little town.

This is a sample of one of the old-fashioned houses remaining in Redwood City. I like how she used the extension of the box as part of the house's architecture.

Painting of old house in Redwood City
I took this shot with my iPad.
I am not sure about the source of this view, but the fool-the-eye quality is quite good here.

Architectural view on one side of Utility box.
All these photos are my iPad snapshots.

One of the most colorful buildings in town is the old Fox Theater. Christine depicted it on the street side of the box.

One of the entrances of the Fox Theater building.
When the party was over, Dan and I went looking for the source of this image.

The Fox Theater building houses various businesses.
Lovely architectural detail.

In the old days, the focal point of downtown Redwood City was the classically inspired Courthouse Square. On the fourth side of the utility box, Christine cleverly painted a key architectural detail of a pavilion on one side of the Square.

Detail from pavilion in Courthouse Square
My shot of the real thing provides a little more context.

Pavilion in Courthouse Square
The old courthouse has been turned into a history museum.

The Redwood City History Museum used to be the Courthouse.
Christine advised us that while we were exploring Redwood City we should check out a mural by her friend Morgan Bricca on the back of a Chinese restaurant across town. It was well worth the trek.

Mural by Morgan Bricca
What a gift to the city! Not only is this a very special mural, but it covers the ugly blank back of the building, which happens to be in a busy location. There was a "before" photo nearby.

Here are some details.

By then it was time for lunch. The back entrance used to be in a blank wall. These colorful details are painted illusion.

Painted back entrance to the Crouching Tiger Restaurant and Bar.
On the way back to the car, I observed that the sun had finally lit up the shady side of Christine's Utility Box.

Homage to the old days.
Christine's Utility Box did its job for us: introduced us to a charming little town that we've been overlooking, though it is nearby.