Dive bar ‘Art Pop Up’ brings out Bay Area artists

Veronica Hall,
Layout Designer

The glow of red still hung from the ceiling lights and the mirror walls that framed the walkway of The Ruby Room were covered in local art. The entrance tables of the Oakland dive bar became display areas for ceramics and the back lounge stands were full of beaded and wire jewelry for sale. Even the DJ booth was covered with prints and paintings.

The featured art was part of The Art Pop Up, an event hosted on March 11 by Indigo Tidd, aka “champagnenagchampa,” a 3D and CGI artist out of Oakland who also bartends at The Ruby Room. She works as a visual director for New World Dysorder, an Oakland-based nightlife, arts and entertainment company that produces and curates experiential events aiming to celebrate diversity and freedom of expression for all.

But this time, she wanted to do her own first art pop up specifically for her and her friends. Tidd chose the event date a week after Oakland’s community festival First Friday because the first Saturday after is bad for business. By making it the second Saturday it gives people something to look forward to after the First Friday excitement dies down and is better for bringing local people out to support.

“It’s hard as visual artists to have a platform to sell your work because we do most of our dealings online and then nobody wants to meet up in person,” said Tidd. “I wanted to have a spot where we’re just able to vend our stuff. I never make any money selling my prints so I’m trying to make something work for myself and everyone here as artists.”

As bar regulars and guests filled The Ruby Room, funky indie rock played as more than 15 artists discussed and sold their work. The variety of artwork included colorful bursts of different subject matter ranging from skulls to abstract graffiti. Sketches included cats, faces and tribal designs. There were embroidered patches and leather chokers as well. Tidd and other artists also sold t-shirts up with comic and animated drawings on them.

But photos and edits stole the show with numerous spreads throughout the bar. While many included still life and nature aspects in the matte prints, artist Max Sage aka “StreetBleach” took a different approach for his display. Known for his modern pop-up work with memes and edits of celebrities like Mac Dre and Gucci Mane, he decided to try a new style of erotic political propaganda.

The work featured a nip slipped Sarah Palin posing in the desert as an oil crane sits behind with what looks like to be a male body hanging from it. Using the event to step away from the entertaining aspects of his work, Sage chose to display what he really enjoys making and cares deeply about, breaking out from what people would normally expect from him.

“The double edged sword of being an artist is that the value of art is subjective,” said Sage. “It’s not your artistic integrity or your technical skill that makes art good, it’s all about the idea being expressed. What I do is a reflection of my personality in a various ways, when I make memes and edits I do it for myself and what I like.

Artists like Tidd and Sage are not strangers to the Bay Area art movement, but as internet artists they have taken a new path to connecting, social media. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook help artists come together and collaborate while also promoting their work and shows. Tidd is part of a girl art group chat on Instagram where she encouraged her fellow members to come out and put up their work.

Tumblr was what made Sage’s work go viral online. While he is no stranger to Instagram with over 8,000 followers, his edits have been consistently reblogged on Tumblr and talked about even years after posting them. One of his favorites and first popular works of art, an edit of Gucci Mane as Scarface, gained popularity on Tumblr so much that Gucci Mane’s PR team recognized and reached out to him.

Yet there is one thing that social media cannot do: bring people together face to face and see the work live. Ian T. of Oakland has been coming out to art shows for as long as he can remember.

“I’m old now but I love to come out to support,” said Ian. Even if I don’t know anyone contributing, I still like to see what’s out there. Sometimes pieces will stick out to me and I’ll just have to buy it, feels good to get something new and cool for my house and help a local artist with their career.”

After the night wound down and the mirror walls that were previously covered by art for sale were visible again, artists exchanged pieces with each other and signed and drew on each other’s shirts.

Although Art Pop Ups are only one-day exhibits, they allow artists from all over to come together, network, explore different art styles and gain inspiration.