Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Albany Bulb is a chunk of landfill west of the town of Albany, which itself is a bayside town just north of Berkeley. The Bulb is connected to the mainland by a narrow neck of land and was used as a garbage dump for many years. The landscape features slabs of concrete at odd angles, often painted wild colors, rusty rebar snakes everywhere, rampant vegetation, and trees festooned with all manner of strange objects. There is a community of people creating assemblage art from the treasure trove of decayed and weathered materials available in the weeds and trees. On the north shore, driftwood giants gaze across the bay and strange metal plants sprout from the grass. Winter storms knock down the art and provide material for new ones. The art currently varies from modest trailside assemblages to monumental driftwood-and-rusty-metal sculptures. Many of them are the creation of Osha Neumann. There is also an outdoor gallery of paintings that are slowly decaying into the landscape.
The area was formerly colonized by indigent campers, setting up homes under trees or in shacks. One of them built a small castle from local materials. As all the residents have now been rousted by the local authorities, the castle itself is decaying into the landscape. Documentation about the Bulb can be found here with a video here.
A previous generation of driftwood assemblagists created a sculpture garden in the mudflats west of nearby Emeryville. The constructions began in the mid-sixties and flourished in the following two decades; they were a treat to see while driving along I80 to the Bay Bridge. Some of them are the subject of a photo essay by Douglas Keister in his 1985 book Driftwood Whimsy. The mudflats are now the pristine Emeryville Crescent State Marine Reserve.