Arts + Letters

Burning Passion: Photographer Noah Berger on Shooting Fire

Noah Berger admits he wasn’t the most diligent student when he attended UC Berkeley back in the early 1990s. He simply didn’t feel cut out for academe. In fact, there was only one thing that really engaged his interest during his freshman year in 1992: taking photographs for the Daily Californian.

And the Rest Is (Oral) History

Among those appalled by the 2014 publication of Forcing the Spring was Martin Meeker, a historian with UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center. Subtitled Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, the book, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jo Becker, spotlighted high-profile attorneys and what proved a limited, statewide victory.

Incunabula, VHS Tapes, and Silverfish: Unpacking the Bancroft

Sometimes the rough draft of history isn’t a newspaper, but a pile of them. Along with moldering manuscripts, reams of correspondence, posters and handbills, memoranda fastened together with rusty paper clips, all of it stuffed into decaying cardboard boxes. Rodents may or may not be involved.

Strokes of Genius: Hans Hofmann’s Gift to Berkeley

Hans Hofmann, the great abstract expressionist painter and teacher, might never have made his indelible imprint on 20th-century American art, first on the West Coast and ultimately across the U.S., had it not been for two summers teaching at UC Berkeley. The invitation came from Worth Ryder, an art department faculty member and former Hofmann student, and without it, it’s possible there wouldn’t even be much of a Berkeley Art Museum.

From the Spring 2019 issue of California.

Photojournalist Wesaam Al-Badry on the Dignity in Suffering

Bright, sherbet colors form the palate of Wesaam Al-Badry’s newest exhibit, a series of portraits that features Muslim women in traditional garb—with a twist. Instead of the usual neutral-toned veil, the women don designer scarves, made by brands like Gucci and Chanel, that have been repurposed as high-fashion niqabs.

Not Just Refugees: Photo Exhibit Documents a People in Crisis

Chris Beale doesn’t call himself a photographer. Or a journalist. Or an activist. When asked his profession, the 42-year-old is quiet for a moment before replying, “Gardener. I’m a landscape gardener.”

5 Things Philip Dick Got Right: A Total Recall of Electric Sheep

It was a half a century ago this year that Berkeley High grad and Cal drop-out Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? hit the shelves. Set in 2021, the story follows the systematic annihilation of renegade androids in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear-ravaged San Francisco. (In short: man made robot, robot outsmarted man, man crushed robot.) Though a work of fiction, the novel is revered to this day for its astute insights on the future of man and machine—perhaps because so much of the story has, in some form or another, become reality.

Cal Performances Sings the Saga of the Undocumented

Cal Performances isn’t in the habit of weighing in on topical controversies, but when it comes to defending Cal students, the organization decided it was time to raise a voice.

Make that many voices—Cal Performances has assembled a stellar roster of artists to create an oratorio inspired by the stories of undocumented students living in fear that they and their families could be uprooted at any moment.

Cal’s interest in the fate of undocumented students predates the 2016 election by years.

From the Winter 2018 Play issue of California.

He Left El Salvador as a Boy. He Returned Home a Poet.

Javier Zamora, a Salvadoran-American poet who lived for most of his life sin papeles, doesn’t care too much for labels. Or borders for that matter.

Born in El Salvador and educated at UC Berkeley, Zamora immigrated to the U.S. when he was only 9 years old. Since then, his literary success has earned him new titles—immigrant activist, hero of the American Dream, and very recently, with his new EB-1 visa, a person with “an extraordinary ability.”

From the Fall 2018 Culture Shift issue of California.

This Cal Grad Is Out to Change The Rules of Comedy

Comedian and Cal grad Zahra Noorbakhsh is a self-described “pork-eating, alcohol-drinking, premarital sex-having, bisexual feminist Iranian Shi’a Muslim.” That is, she doesn’t fit neatly into any one box.

Spanish Professor Speaks the Language of the Blues

UC Berkeley grad and Spanish professor at Diablo Valley College, Marina Crouse has recently found remarkable success in her long-forgone passion for music. With the release last month of her debut album Never Too Soon (Little Village Foundation), the late-blooming singer is starting to earn national attention. And in just a few short years Crouse has become one of the most powerful new voices in the Bay Area music scene.

Q&A: Writes Barbara Jane Reyes, “I Am Not Your Ethnic Spectacle”

As a successful, Filipina-American, experimental feminist poet, Barbara Jane Reyes is something unusual. Her poetry, which she describes as “Filipina affirming work, Filipina centric work, in which the definition of Filipina must be complex and manifold,” is being featured at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, through the month of August. She joins poet Al Robles as part of the Pilipinx American Library, a non-circulating library in the museum’s Resource Room.

Q&A: Roberta Grossman on the Untold Story of the Warsaw Ghetto

In 1940, a Polish historian named Emanuel Ringelblum and a group of 60 scholars, journalists, and local leaders, known as the Oyneg Shabes, set out to record Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis had taken over, and, unbeknownst to Ringelblum, a plan for the “Final Solution”—the systematic extermination of the Jewish people—was beginning to formulate.

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