Students streaming toward campus on Telegraph Avenue pass one of the most remarkable artists in Berkeley, quietly selling prints near the corner of Haste Street.
Doug Minker is a soft-spoken man with the most powerful politics in town.
It’s hard to converse with him on the street without being interrupted dozens of times by people who call out hello and exchange pleasantries with an artist who, print by print, has painstakingly documented every political battle that matters for decades.
The prints are unmistakably Minkler; arresting colors, brazen compositions, elemental images which go straight to the heart of the nearest controversy.
Minkler’s website gives detailed instructions on the best way to download his images for free, hoping they will be used by activists, educators, and visionaries who share his conviction that an international, rather than a national perspective, will change a politically fractured world.
If you’re local, you’re in luck. Minkler is delighted to have you check out his work whether you’re buying or not. Look for him on Telegraph on Saturdays near the southwest corner of Haste and Telegraph.
Original, affordable art is rarely so accessible. And if you’re ready to have your mind opened a little wider, ask him a question or two.
“Corporations want artists to glorify their wars, their products and their philosophies,” says Minkler. “I make posters for my own preservation, that is, planetary preservation.”
Minkler’s prints are described on his website as inspired “not by rugged individualism, but by the collective humor, defiance, and lust for life exhibited by those on the margins.”
Generosity is the obvious way to describe this give-it-away philosophy, which takes little individual credit, and which has made an already financially challenging course in life even more precarious. But Minkler’s art’s real core is a passion for change so intense that one of his images coupled with its customary potent phrase or pun will stay with an observer for a long time.
Some images are disturbing. One poster poses the question, “Got Milked?” over a sad dairy cow bristling with antibiotics needles in her hide, a background which notes deforestation, growth hormones, water shortages, and other ills associated with the dairy industry, and has the legend, “Milk has something for everybody – high blood cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Other images are inspiring, romantic images of a dream world so free they evoke the charm and joy of early impressionists discovering a new world. One print entitled “Get A Life Get A Bike 2” has a winged couple embracing on bicycles sailing high across the sky, surrounded by what at first look like birds and flowers, but what are in fact birds and tiny bicycles. Beneath the loving embrace of the bicyclers is a sea of “inCARcerated” (sic) people stuck in a polluting sea of traffic.
A gallery of his work is a scrapbook of national and local political issues illustrated in detail over decades, including collaborations with ILWU, Rain Forest Action Network, SF Mime Troupe, ACLU, The Lawyers Guild, CISPES, United Auto Workers, Africa Information Network, Ecumenical Peace Union, ADAPT, Cop Watch, Street Sheet, the People’s Park Defense Union, and Veterans for Peace.
No description can do the elemental power of these colorful print works justice, but fortunately Minkler has local shows, as well as the website.
Remembering the Struggle/Recordando La Lucha
(Watsonville Cannery Strike 1985-1987)
7-9 p.m. Public Opening Celebration
Celebración de Inaugaración
Pajaro Valley Gallery | Galería de Valle del Pájaro
37 Sudden St. Watsonville.(831)722-3062.
Art of Democracy: War and Empire. Meridian Gallery Sept.4 –Nov. 4. 535 Powell St. San Francisco. (415) 398-7229.
Banned and Recovered
Artist Respond to Censorship
African American Museum and Library at Oakland
Sept. 5-Dec. 31. Public reception Fri., Sept. 5, 6:30-9 p.m.
Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-5:30 p.m.
659 14th St., Oakland. 637-0200.
ArtAuction08, a live and silent auction to benefit the work of the Coalition on Homelessness, Thursday, Sept. 11 at
SomArts Gallery 934 Brannan Street San Francisco
The 12th Annual Art for AIDS will be held Friday, Oct. 3, at Herbst International Exhibition Hall (HIEH) in the Presidio. Silent auction viewing and bidding from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. (415) 502-7276. Live auction starts promptly at 6:45 p.m.
Admission: $75 (includes food and beverages)
[An error in the print version of this article has been corrected: Minkler exhibits on Telegraph on Saturdays, not Sundays.