When it comes to creating an inviting space for artists and art lovers alike, the World Ground Café in Oakland’s Laurel District certainly delivers. Located at 3726 MacArthur Blvd, with a sister store downtown at 308 Jackson St, the café is the picture of bohemian life with it’s hardwood floors and furnishings, airy picture windows, and rows of tables occupied by chatting friends catching up over coffee, and nibble-fingered individuals solo-seated over laptops taking advantage of the free wifi for customers.
Currently, it is home to an exhibit by abstract artist Sayra Reyes. Born and raised in Oakland, the Mexican-American painter includes many culturally and locally inspired elements in her colorful acrylic paintings, which are reminiscent of the murals seen on the sides of local businesses in Fruitvale, but on a far more intimate scale.
The Reyes exhibit graces the golden-hued wall to the right of the door when entering the World Ground Café, and immediately captures the eye. Lit in equal parts by the sun streaming in through the storefront window and exhibit-specific lighting fixtures, the pieces on display are images of women in warm colors that so well suit the natural lighting and the autumn-leaf shades of café walls.
The centerpiece of this display is a series of three panels, approximately three feet in height showing three different women, posed identically with their backs facing the viewer. The women are green, brown, and blue, each wearing the head of a different totemic animal – the green woman with a lion’s head, the brown with an ox, the blue with a cat. The three masked women stand guard over Reyes’ celebratory images of women in action. A dancing girl in a festive red, green and floral trimmed dress raises a caped arm over her head like a bullfighter. A seated woman in a polka-dot skirt is all hard edges and wears a blue top like a floral vase, her hand gently touching her cheek. A third image is a self-portrait entitled “Expression of Essence” which shows a woman deep in thought, her thoughts consumed with the tools of creative self-expression.
These beautiful and imaginative pieces tell a story, and it is a story of the women of Oakland, a story of diversity appropriately told in March, International Women’s History Month.