I like gallery hopping. I really do. I just don’t expect to see art that I like. Maybe because there’s so much of it. There’s a proliferation of art schools, art spaces, art fairs, and art makers providing a constant stream of images and objects. And they aren’t all wonderful. I’m not immune to the power of art though, or its ability to leave a lasting impression. Just now I’m remembering visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts when I was too young to know how old I was.
Recently we were back at the car after a full day of gallery hopping in downtown Oakland, California. It was rush hour and we’d be stuck in it. My friend, and the driver that day, suggested we visit Oakland’s Mormon temple instead. Excellent! I had never seen this massive landmark up close.
The Oakland California Temple, in the Oakland Hills, sits high above the streets of downtown Oakland. It has a commanding view of the San Francisco Bay region. My friend grew up in the Oakland Hills, an affluent area with many parks and horse stables. She wound comfortably through the neighborhoods, and as we passed her high school, mentioned that Tom Hanks had been a classmate, and yes, they were in drama class together.
At the entrance to the temple’s parking lot is a large fountain and larger white gates.
The temple, designed by Harold W. Burton and dedicated in 1964, is the best of a 1940s Hollywood stage set. This Jew was giddy in its presence.
Built of reinforced concrete and faced with white granite, the temple rises one hundred and seventy feet. Five carved and gilded, pyramidal spires top it off. Above its entry doors, and almost midway up the facade, live palm trees are planted on the building’s elevated terrace. They flank a grand frieze in which Christ preaches to a small crowd, arms outstretched in a christly pose. Outside the front entry’s gardened courtyard is an expansive, formal, man-made stream with multiple footbridges and two fountains. Irregular carved white stones dot the stream. They rise above the surface of the water looking a bit like tiny icebergs, though I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. Rose bushes, boxwood hedges, and more palm trees line the 18.3-acre property. The feeling here is something like Frank Lloyd Wright meets Arabian palace meets Cecil B. deMille.
Not much in the galleries that day, but the Oakland California Temple was spectacular.
R. Kay is a visual artist living in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. When not in the studio, R. Kay roams far and near absorbing visual hits and stinkers along the way.
Volume 30 number 4 March / April 2016 p 34