OAKLAND, Calif., Dec. 8, 2008 … Berkeley artist Judith White Marcellini has a deep imagination — so deep it penetrates the Earth’s crust and explores the ocean’s depths. White has collected her three-dimensional cross sections of land and water in a show titled “Below the Surface,” now on display at the LunchStop Cafe in Oakland.
The show is sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which is based at the MetroCenter.
One wall of the cafe features cutaways of ocean scenes. A lone fishing boat or a pair of surfers may hover at the top, while beneath the surface, the water churns with divers and sea life. There is a sunny, playful tone to these scenes in terms of colors, subject matter and titles.
The land-based works across the room provide a stark contrast with dark, earthy colors and an element of social commentary. In “Fault Zone Suburb,” rows of tiny houses sit peacefully and complacently on the Earth’s surface, their occupants seemingly oblivious to the seismic threat posed by lava-filled vertical cracks cutting through the strata below. In “Fossils,” the upper surface is inhabited by a jumble of old cars in various stages of decay and melting into the ground; they are on the road to becoming the next layer of fossils, on top of a dozen or so strata laid down eons before.
“My current paintings are so thick that they almost jump off the wall,” Marcellini commented. “At one point I made much thinner ones: typical stretched canvas. But they gradually got thicker and thicker, morphing into bas reliefs, and reached the jumping point.
“These pieces are mostly about places — landscapes, cityscapes and waterscapes. I try to create scenes that you can get into and explore, like the dioramas in natural history museums that I enjoyed as a kid. The diorama’s dimensionality, I think, is what helps create an experience in which the imagination is enticed to wander. That’s why I try to build dimensionality into my paintings.”
Marcellini’s technique involves both painting and sculpting. “I build up a base of cardboard, wood and glue-sized canvas, upon which I squeeze out globs of thick acrylic and create texture and further build up the form of the painting, sometimes sculpting with the paint itself,” she explained.
The artist’s unique style draws from her many years of planning and developing museum exhibits and educational programs, including at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
Two of Marcellini’s larger works are on display in the lobby areas of the upper floors of the MetroCenter. Both are three-dimensional, aerial views of her hometown of Berkeley.
“Many of my scenes show different perspectives: a bird’s-eye view from above; a view of what is below ground; a view of what is above,” she said.
MTC is the transportation planning, coordinating and financing agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, and sponsors shows in the LunchStop Cafe as part of its Community Art Program.

About the Show: Judith White Marcellini’s show of paintings, “Below the Surface,” continues at the LunchStop Cafe through January 31, 2009, and a reception will take place on Thursday, December 11, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The LunchStop Café is located on the first floor of the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter, 101 Eighth Street in Oakland. The café is open to the public weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Additional works by Marcellini can be viewed in the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, located on the second and third floors of the MetroCenter. Upstairs viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.