The Albany Waterfront is located on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay, encompassing approximately 160 acres of land between Highway I-80 and the bay.
The Albany Bulb is the spot of land thriving at the furthermost West peak of this 160 acres. This "Bulb" (simply named for its shoreline's shape) was born of dumping in the 1950's. The land growth of this dumping stopped in the mid 1980's (reports have ranged from 1983-1986).
Since dumping was halted, wild growth and life have created a treasure of seemingly unkempt adventure for our human mind. The trails formed in the last ten years will wind you in and around concrete, rebar and scrap metal (oh my!). As you hike around such protruding materials, you get a sense that these unwanted pieces are growing from the dirt as much as any plant. One could even say the wild life on this piece of land includes not only willows and citrus, but the metals and concrete slabs.
Of course, the bay area also grows a steady supply of the wild mind. Such wild minds are grown into the formation of a homo sapien body. We call these growths: Artists. And when you mix an Artist with nature and societal refuse, you get touching and enthralling Art. What one person would have seen as an ugly piece of concrete or a rusted sharp edge waiting for a lawsuit, an Artist sees as a canvas.
As a tool needing use and touch.
As material without direction.
As potential for Art.
This is just what has happened on The Albany Bulb.
When you approach the Landfill, coming upon via The Albany "Neck", you might think this is a desolate, forgotten trash heap. But if you press onward, upward and downward (as the landfill paths are worn down, yes, but still naturally bumpy and hilly) you will be treated with the findings of urban decay art. If you have an adventurous spirit, you will come to find The Albany Bulb serves as a virtual outdoor gallery. Free of cost and crowds, this new wave gallery is a fantastic breath away from city and suburban life and its overtly structured culture. This Bulb is not only overtly structured, but incredibly inclusive and visitor maintained. You are encouraged to create art yourself for the next visitor's delight. And The Bulb is a proud participant of The Common Courtesy Act. This includes such acts as picking up after yourself and your dogs.
With common courtesy now in place, let us talk of art! Art works on The Bulb range from graffiti art to impressive sculptures and buildings. Aside from paint and hand tools, artists have created their works for the public using only what they can find amongst the plethora of landfill findings.
As way of a quick overview, and to get your audacious explorer self salivating. . . a few of the discoveries of The Bulb:
Sculptures on the North shoreline. Some call these creations "The Driftwood People", though they are created using both driftwood and scrap metals. The characters range from an enthralling "Welcome Woman" to "The Thinker" and "Man Riding Dragon". These awesome and amazingly detailed people are the creation of Osha Neumann, a local writer, artist and lawyer.
The dark and, I suppose, sadistic paintings of The Sniff Collective, stream all throughout The Bulb, but mainly along the North shoreline in the most gallery evident setting I have yet to find here. The driftwood canvases line the shrubbery of The Bulb and cause one to think and shudder, staring with mouth agape. These driftwood paintings are a testament to our sex-drenched and gutterfied culture. There could not be a better placeholder for such reflective art than the placeholder for the discards of our society, this Landfill.
Another noteworthy finding of The Bulb is found on its Southwest corner. Right on the shoreline, with an amazing view of San Francisco, "The Fairy Castle" was built by one nomadic man, "Mad" Mark. Though it is unknown when he began construction, "Mad" Mark completed this magnificent structure in 2000, and so created an engraved slab of granite as signature. Don't let the tagged building deter you from admiring the structure for the brilliance of it. I was lucky enough to have been given a informative tour of The Bulb and the artwork on it, including The Castle, and so I can pass on this information: The Fairy Castle was built entirely at night. "Mad" Max, a brilliant man, had more than one conspiracy theory he felt relevant, and so he constructed only in the dark of night. Amazing.
Another feature of this outdoor gallery is The Landfillian Free Library. Constructed in 2006, The Landfillian Free Library could, for all purposes, serve as The Albany Bulb Historical Society. Maintained by a friendly, smiley man, Jimbow the Hobow. You are encouraged to borrow and contribute both books and conversation, knowledge and compassion, and, for a certainty, smiles and beer. Jimbow is a welcoming librarian and poet. You will not be disappointed with his conversation and book collection.
The Landfillian Free Library was built by both Jimbow and his buddy, Andy. Andy is there often and served as an excellent tour guide for my curious mind. He is more than welcome to talk and let you know how to help conserve this gallery and ever growing, un-manicured plot of land in the East Bay. In fact, he is responsible for the only known written instruction of how to do so. A make-shift sign at the entrance to The Landfillian Free Library, he writes:
Welcome to the Landfillian Free Library. This place is maintained by Landfillians (landfill folk) for the enjoyment of everyone- please stay and read, or borrow books, and donate books too.
Please sign our guestbook!
We have been having some trouble with the law and at some time soon it will be very useful to have a guest book full of names and comments.
One of the builders of the library was ticketed for building this, the cops come weekly, and if we don't appeal to the City Council or some famous art people soon the library may be destroyed.
What you can do to help:
1. Come here often so someone will be here, and bring many friends. Sign the guestbook. Give us your contact info too if you would like to be on an email alert list.
2. Take pictures with yourself and/or parties in the frame and leave us some copies and send them to your friends in other towns. Have them write us a letter of support for this amazing community project and public art!
3. The law says no building in the parks of Albany, please call the City Council and ask them to make an exception for the library. Invite them out here to see it and remember to mention that it is a memorial for homeless people who have passed on.
4. Contact people in the press + send them photos.
5. Contact art lovers and foundations and famous people who might want to stand up for this place, and can persuade the city.
This is a community center for both residents and visitors alike, please contribute books and make art near the library!
Thank you so much.
After all said and written, you could also just come out here for a peaceful hike and an amazing sunset. Just come. Your nature craved, artistic soul will love you for it.
Cheers and Happy Art Discovery!
(*Images, from top to bottom: Unkown artist, The Swarm. Unknown Graffiti. Osha Neumann, Welcome Woman. Sniff Collective. "Mad" Mark, The Fairy Castle. The Landfillian Library. Unkown artist, Art Pop. All photos courtesy of Montgomery Rene.)
Artslant would like to thank Montgomery Rene for submitting her words and photos.
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