At 2634 Webster St., just west of College, there is a regularly changing themed sidewalk art installation. “Regularly” might not be the perfect adverb there, though, because there is no schedule for changes, no plan for changes, not sketches for the next one – just changes when the moment is right to change.
The artist behind these installations in Julie Partos Clark, a Jewish Australian-Hungarian artist who first came to Berkeley with her mother in the early 1960s. Today she is the matriarch in a multi-generational family compound of houses on the corner of College and Webster. She is a working artist who describes her work as collage, although she may use the term “collage” a bit differently than you or I might.
Past installations include these:
Neighbors visit the installations regularly, bringing friends and talking it up. In ten minutes standing outside the house with the installation, I saw half a dozen people stop and say hello to Partos and thank her for her gift-to-the-street art. People will sometimes leave an object that fits the installation’s theme; so far, objects have not walked away.
The common large backyard formed from smaller backyards of the several houses is filled with objects which have been or will be used in installations.
Julie is the larger-than-life character that the installations suggest.
She speaks with an Australian accent, but is quick to remind you of her Hungarian and Jewish heritage. The installations suggest something else – an extrovert.
She is an extrovert. Some might say a ham. I would only say that if we all understood that this is a term of endearment. Her energy and joy of life and passion for art are unconfined.
Just as there is no line for Julie Partos between life and art, I could discern no line between home and studio inside the Webster Street house. Most of the art is hers, but there is a large collection of wire sculptures by a street artist she knows only as “The Professor.”
And then – her art and the bins and shelves holding the raw materials for future art. Looking at the purses and hats and fly swatters you can sense, perhaps, what she means when she says “collage.”
Julie’s installations on Webster Street are all the Quirky that Berkeley can be. They are gifts to the street. They are whimsical. They change. They don’t fit on a slide rule. And they are physical manifestations of an inward creativity, non-conformity, and desire to express.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.
A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.
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