By Tom Dalzell, Berkeleyside
Colusa Avenue between Marin and Hopkins is not well-traveled, but people who have heard about Mark Olivier’s incredible — as in unbelievable — front yard at 1118 Colusa often make a point to go there.
Olivier, a carpenter who found himself as a sculptor, has created a fantastical display from found objects. He walks the Albany Bulb and other beaches to collect trash, mostly plastic, that has washed up. He takes the trash home, sorts it in boxes and bins. And then the magic happens: unexpected animals and masks and figures and machines.
For some pieces, Olivier sticks to one basic trash commodity. Baseball caps wash up on the beaches with some regularity, and one man’s washed-up baseball cap is another man’s material for sculpture:
This sculpture is one of the few Olivier sculptures which is an allusion to classical sculpture. The Winged Victory of Samothrace or Nike of Samothrace is a second-century B.C. marble sculpture found in the Louvre. It is believed that Pythokritos of Rhodes was the sculptor and that it was erected by Macedonian general Demetrius I Poliocretes after a naval victory at Cyprus. That is quite a bit of heritage for a bunch of washed-up baseball caps in Berkeley.
Olivier has created a series of thunderbird sculptures, also made primarily from baseball caps:
The number of disposable butane lighters that Olivier has rescued and repurposed is staggering. The Zippo lighter was introduced in 1932. Great thought was put into its design and care was exercised in preserving and using a Zippo for years of smoking pleasure. Not so with the disposables. Beaches are littered with them, and Olivier is especially fond of their symmetry and bright colors. He has several intricate bridge sculptures made almost entirely with lighters, as well as this serpent:
Braided nylon rope, especially dynamic kernmantle rope, washes up by the mile on beaches. Olivier salvages the rope and builds around wooden frames. Margate, New Jersey may have Lucy the Elephant, but we have Mark Olivier’s Babu:
Any one of Olivier’s sculptures is a marvel of color, form and reuse of trash. Seen as a whole in his front yard, the effect is overwhelming in a Dr. Seuss world kind of way. I visit every month or so, seeing old friends and making new ones. I am always amazed.