Having grown up in San Francisco I have a distinct view of Oakland’s identity, not just the City on the other side of the Bridge. Did your childhood there imbue you with anything distinctive as a result of being from the Other City By the Bay?
Growing up in Oakland in the 50′s gave me a strong sense of freedom. It was a calmer, less impoverished place then. Even as a young child me and my brother could roam around, with little supervision, from the busy downtown to the green hills through many neighborhoods. I suppose if you look at my work over the years, the spectrum of urban to natural settings that appear was first experienced, first laid down in my mind, during those first eight years of exploring. This same balance of city and country was there when we moved to Berkeley. Oakland and Berkeley, the East Bay on general, had this big city on the edge of wildness quality. Berkeley, though, had some other layers that made it a whole different place.
With your mother being an artist, did you grow up in a more creative atmosphere, say surrounded by books or with paints and colored pencils at arm’s reach?
Yes, all of that. Art books, history, literature and art supplies. Whatever kind of artist I turned out to be, I got an early start because of my mother. I was using oil paints when I was seven or eight and pretty clear that was my path by then. My mother was a good teacher, too, and got me well prepared for the excellent art classes in the Berkeley schools. Though she was widowed, poor and working full time to support us, she tirelessly made sure we were exposed to museums, movies, music, theater, nature…so much. She was pretty amazing; still living, too: 100 years old and mentally alert.