19 Aug

Raised by earth-loving parents, Crystal Morey moved to Oakland from the Sierra Foothills and found a “strong emerging art scene” that has inspired and nurtured her life as an artist in an urban landscape. “I like to explore ideas of human interaction with the natural environment,” she says, “and Oakland is a wonderful example of human adaptation and ingenuity over time.”

I grew up in Nevada City, California, the child of two adventurous and loving hippies. My dad had a tiny rock shop called the “Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop” in the heart of Nevada City where I spent much of my early years. He supplied the shop by traveling the world gathering and mining for beautiful gems, minerals and crystals. My mom was interested in natural foods and herbal supplements and to this day still works at the natural foods co-op. Being the child of nature-loving parents exposed me to so many interesting ways of life and most importantly helped shape my views and relationship to the animals, people and environment around me.

I moved to Oakland in 2002 to study art at the California College of the Arts. Though I loved the mountains, deep blue rivers, and tall lush trees I had come from, I was ready for new experiences. I specifically sought an art college in a larger metropolitan area where I could learn about art and life and expose myself to other artists, museums and galleries.

At first I was overwhelmed by the urban landscape and constant activity of the city. Oakland and San Francisco stood in stark contrast from what I had known for most my life. I went from exploring natural and untamed places to a new view of large concrete buildings, paved streets and tightly contained green spaces. The Oakland landscape is not what has kept me here all of these years – I could make my work anywhere. What has kept me in Oakland is the strong emerging art scene and a growing, supportive, and exciting art community.

In 2006 as I was graduating from CCA, Oakland began to explode with artistic activity. Galleries, studios, and artist-run project spaces began to open all over the city, forming a wonderful art scene that continues today in Oakland’s many creative spaces and art walks.

Invigorated by the new art scene, I decided to stay in Oakland. My first studio was in my bedroom in a house I shared with several friends. The house was very large, extremely old and in some ways remenicent of a mystery mansion. I was lucky enough to have a sink in my bedroom and a ceramic kiln in my basement, and that was enough to start my work. As a young artist this was perfect. I worked as an artist’s assistant, had strange day jobs and then hustled to make work in my bedroom at night and on free days. All of my friends were doing the same, and through networking and teaming together we were able to organize strong group shows in local galleries, which then led to two person and solo shows. Looking back, I see how all of these connections, experiences and the buzzing art scene shaped who I am and sent me on a trajectory inspired by an evolving yet very strong arts community. The friends I made during this time, and the lessons I learned, have been instrumental to my continued success as an artist.

I joined the Compound Studios in 2008, where my studio is to this day. It comprises many vibrant and talented artists of many disciplines and backgrounds creating a supportive, enriching community. 

Although the Oakland artist community has made the largest impact on my studio practice I also think the landscape has filtered in to what I create. I like to explore ideas of human interaction with the natural environment, and Oakland is a wonderful example of human adaptation and ingenuity over time. I love several places in and around Oakland because of the way they accommodate natural habitats, adapted ecosystems – humans and urban life. My favorite place in Oakland is Lake Merritt. The Lake is a beautiful, large body of water teaming with wildlife, walkers, joggers, and picnickers. Lake Merritt has the oldest wildlife refuge in the United States, housing many birds from all over, and is an important stop for several migratory species. There is a wonderful path around the lake for running and walking; the historic Children’s Fairyland is on the lake, as well as a Saturday farmer’s market between the Lake and the beautiful Grand Lake Theater.

Although my artistic work may not take enormous visual inspiration from Oakland itself, I personally draw from the energy and culture of the city. I continue to learn and grow as an artist and look forward to what my life and my city of Oakland will bring to my process!

Favorite place

Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt


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