An Enlightening “Saturday Stroll” in Oakland

I’d been meaning to go to Oakland Art Murmur for the past three years. Yet somehow I never found the time. So when Gail, a new arrival to the Bay Area, expressed interest in checking out Oakland, it was game on. Off we set, two Gails (you can read Gail Johnston’s post on our Stroll here) and I for Art Murmur’s Saturday Stroll. We planned to start at a gallery called Manna on 25th street. While a couple of the works, namely the charcoal drawings, drew me in, Barbara Rogers’ abstract paintings really weren’t my style. I did enjoy nibbling on the complimentary cheese, grapes, and a tasty GSM specially labeled for Trader Joe’s. We moved on. I peeked into a gallery displaying ceramics, then stopped in to view SLATE CONTEMPORARY’s stunning photography exhibition of urban streetscapes.

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But it was in Mercury 20 that I met my match. As we spread out and moved around the room at our own paces, I found myself wishing I could afford one of Eric Bohr’s mixed media canvases. Sadly, they were out of my price range. Then the artist Nick Dong approached us to introduce the gallery, explained that it was an artists’ collective, and gave us some information on the artists and art works. His work, Be-longing-En-lightening, was composed of two pieces of installation art: a staircase that appears to lead nowhere and a door promising that enlightenment could be found on the other side. Intrigued, we took turns experiencing them. When my turn came, I removed my shoes, entered the dark room, and sat. The experience was profoundly meditative: I felt calm, yet energized. And had there not been others waiting to enter, I could have happily stayed there for a good while.

Oakland-art gallery enlightenment roomAs we talked to the artist afterward, he described his father’s background in Zen Buddhism which in an unexpected way had provided a spark of inspiration, and the months of work that had gone into creating the piece. Hearing his story made something click: perfectly explaining my feelings while inside. When he mentioned that Sunday’s gallery reception would involve wine, in order to create a full sensory experience, and asked me to recommend some that would be good companions for the works, I was even more intrigued. I promised to get back to him later that evening with suggestions. I’d never been asked to pair wine with experiential or, let’s be honest, any type of, art, but I immediately saw the connection. Here are my suggestions:

For the Enlightenment piece, I recommend this haunting white wine with purity of expression, intense concentration, and lingering, powerful flavors: 2011 Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Spatlese from Koehler Ruptecht (sold at Barrel Room in Rockridge)

For the staircase, I recommend a heavier, layered, slightly brooding red that doesn’t give all its secrets away up front—like a Cote du Rhone.

I’m still waiting for feedback on how my wine pairing suggestions worked. But you can ask Nick yourself. Better make a beeline though; the installation will only be in place until May 17th. Meanwhile I wonder: does Art Murmur need a resident Wine Advisor?

Look for a future post from me on Oakland’s burgeoning wine scene.