Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif. on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015.
The home of Arlene Mayerson and Allan Tinker: a treasure trove of art and quirk. Photo: John Storey

In the hills behind the Claremont, within a Berkeley zip code, is the home of Arlene Mayerson and Allan Tinker. For what they do, what they collect, and what they make, sculptor/gardener Marcia Donahue has crowned them the queen and king of Berkeley Quirk; and sculptor Doug Heine wrote: “This is what I love about Berkeley, these treasures and the people that are the REAL treasures to us.”

The courtyard in front of their house is filled with large art.

Photo: John Storey
Photo: Colleen Neff

The ladies are the work of Leslie Safarik, an Oakland sculptor who works in ceramics. Mayerson drapes them when the spirit moves her — sometimes twice a day, sometimes once a week. Their names are Doris and Hazel. Tinker decides each day which is Doris that day and which is Hazel.

Photo: John Storey

This piece, “Espadrille,” is  made from beach trash, mostly rope, by Mark Olivier. McGuire Real Estate on College, just south of Ashby, had the shoe in its window. Mayerson and Tinker bought it.

Photo: John Storey

This steel rocking chair is the work of the late Emil “Izzy” Sher (1912-1999), who came to the United States from the Soviet Union. He landed in Berkeley in the early 1950s. In 1954 he opened The Wire Shop on Bonita Street; from there, and in his home on Virginia Street, he made art. He worked primarily with steel and wire, but he also painted, worked with clay, and with concrete. Sher’s son Zalman sold off many pieces in April, 2015, as reported by Berkeleyside. Mayerson and Tinker bought the rocking chair at the sale.

That is a pretty spectacular entry.

Mannequin draped by Mayerson. Photo: courtesy Arrlene Mayerson

Arlene Mayerson is a civil-rights lawyer. After graduating from Boston University, she tried her hand at community organizing in Dorcester, Massachusetts. Organizers from the communities of color where she was working told her that they had the organizing part covered and suggested that she do something that they couldn’t do – go to law school.  She came to look at Boalt Hall in 1974 and didn’t turn back.

Her passion as an attorney is to fight for the rights of the disabled. She has been the Directing Attorney of the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund since 1981.  She was a central force in drafting and passing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Allan Tinker. Photo: Arlene Mayerson

Allan Tinker is a poet. He taught writing at Cal. He worked with California Poets in the Schools, drawing poetry out of young people. He worked with The Beat Within, an organization that offers writing workshops to incarcerated youth.

They embody many of the values that have made Berkeley all that we are. Inside their house? It is filled with art that they have collected, some that Mayerson made, and some made by others that Mayerson drapes.

Photo: Colleen Neff
Photo: John Storey

The portrait at the center of the alcove above is by Claire Cotts. Cotts made several other paintings in the house, including a portrait of daughter Emma Mayerson.

Photo John Storey

This is NOT, Mayerson explains, a Madonna. She is draped by Mayerson.

Photo: Colleen Neff

This piece in the alcove was made and sold unpainted, intended to be  unpainted. Mayerson’s draping/accessorizing instincts kicked in and she meticulously painted it. I can’t imagine it not painted. Nice job Arelene!

Photo: Colleen Neff

These are the work of Oaxacan potter Dolores Porras.

Photo: John Storey

The African pieces on the left and right are from Dick and Beany Wezelman. The piece on the right is a Wezelman African piece topped by an ever-changing styrofoam head. The center piece is Mayerson’s work – a metal dress form and a styrofoam head acquired in a lot of styrofoam heads from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Mayerson drapes her and changes out the head.

Photo: Colleen Neff
Photo: John Storey

This was originally a table – imagine a glass top.  Mayerson bought it from Total Estate Liquidation on Telegraph.  She never imagined it to be a table.

Photo: Colleen Neff

A Peter Reginato sculpture. Reginato is a New York sculptor and painter.

Bound editions of Reader’s Digest. Photo: Colleen Neff

These photos only scratch the surface of the art that fills the house.

Photo: courtesy Arlene Mayerson

This is the complete package: creativity, social justice, art made, art collected. Poetry, energy, determination, humor! We are better for having Arlene Mayerson and Allan Tinker in our midst.

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.

How Quirky is Berkeley? Danielle Steel’s ‘joyful women’ (11.17.15)

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Freelancer Tom Dalzell has lived in Berkeley since 1984. After working for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers for 10 years as a legal worker and then lawyer, he went to work for another labor union...