“The Prince Street House,” located on Prince Street in Berkeley’s south end, is filled with messy-hair-sporting, big-glasses-wearing, thrift-store-junkie type kids drinking cheap wine. Milling around the collection of paintings, photographs and other mixed media, Anthony Fonda instructs the crowd to go ahead and listen to that music on the Ipod nailed to the wall. It works and yes, it’s art.
Fonda, an eccentric local artist from West Oakland, was showing at the Prince Street House art show Saturday night along with many other local artists. Fonda, with his piercing black eyes and the wild hand gestures he threw while speaking about just about anything, stood out amongst the other artists by his palpable passion for creating.
Desiree Dedolce, who has known Fonda since he moved to Oakland two years ago, gushes of the passion Fonda feels for things in his life. “He goes 100 percent for whatever he wants. He just manifests things, I wish I had that trait,” says Dedolce.
Fonda, 24, originally from Santa Monica, California, moved up to the Bay Area in August 2007 to escape the dead-end road he was traveling on.
“I just worked two shitty jobs in restaurants, making no money and unable to make art from the hours,” said Fonda. “I just packed up and left trying to find an environment I fit into better.”
He could not have found a better place. Fonda lives in the Vulcan Lofts on West Oakland’s San Leandro Street. These lofts and others located in West Oakland’s warehouses are a popular place for young artists to take over.
Although Fonda says there is no “real apex” for the art scene in the East Bay, West Oakland seems to be one of them. The cheap rent and relative freedom an artist has to do what he or she wants with the property keeps the art scene strong in this part of Oakland. Young artists are able to live in the many warehouse lofts for rent hovering around $100 to $200 a person, if they decided to live with others.
Artists from West Oakland, and other parts of the Bay Area, will get together and hold events to showcase their budding talents. Interdisciplinary shows are mostly on the bill, which include an assortment of different media, music, painting, collage, performance art, and interactive art.
Fonda’s passion for art crosses many mediums, but his main focus is paint and collage. At the recent art show at “The Prince Street House,” Fonda showcased two huge oil paint portraits of a pelican and a zebra. Both, though dull in color mostly, had such detail and layering it looked as if the animals were alive within the canvas.
Swapping is a main factor Fonda focuses on in his interview. He speaks often of the “art world” and those who inhabit it with such distaste. “I’m into swaps because artists don’t have a bunch of money,” says Fonda. “The art world is full of elitists who use money to buy creativity, galleries are full of garbage.”
“People like to buy into that shit, the art scene, young people scene. It’s all about appealing to someone,” said Fonda.
Where does school fall into place with these kids, and even Fonda? Many of the young artists have been to some form of instruction yet most drop out after a few years. Elise Mahan, an art history major at San Francisco State University, says she can see where the mindset of these kids comes from.
“I think they see art as an extension of themselves and not necessarily as a career,” says Mahan, “When they are in school they feel like it is as if they are working towards a career, that takes the passion out of it, makes it mechanical.”
It’s not something Fonda has a choice in either. When asked if he ever thought about quitting art he said, “it’s not something you quit, it’s not an occupation.”
Fonda’s philosophy on life seems very Marxist in nature. The swapping of goods according to one’s ability, the communal living and the freedom of “chance operations” would suggest this.
Fonda hopes to perpetuate the environment he so craves and to keep the creative spirit alive in his neighborhood of Oakland. A steady art space and “maybe” an art buyer, someone to commission and sell his art for him, are two of his main dreams.
“I want a place where kids can come and just create,” says Fonda, “ trade pieces, just keep the flow of creative ideas out there.”
Every hello is triumphant, every good bye a heartbreak with Fonda. In his usual dominant manner he exclaims, “Here’s your theme, I’m looking to be successful as an anti-academic, which will probably fail, but I have a lot of fun.”