Girl About Town: Berkeley's H. Julien

Strolling on Shattuck Avenue late one night, Adam and I saw a strange and unearthly green glow emanating from a favorite shop. Curious, we approached- as several other passersby did the same. We all gathered at the window, mesmerized, like a dopey crowd in some 1950s sci-fi flick. Finally someone said, "What are they?"

No, not space invaders. The work of local artist Dave Meeker- composed entirely of drinking straws.

Meeker's straw lamps and bowls, in the neons that have been so haute in summer fashion, seem very much at home amongst the sculptural succulents at H. Julien. If you're familiar with this East Bay shop and floral design studio, you'll know that this pairing is just further proof of principal Howard Arendtson's brilliance. His displays are always a study in contrasts: soft mosses on industrial metal shelving, vibrantly-colored orchid specimens against deeply brown walls, gleaming metallics juxtaposed with earthy ceramics. Just walking into the dark and cavernous shop is an experience- and with the addition of Meeker's creations, it's downright surreal.

Arendtson's styling gives unexpected versatility to these bizarre plastic forms. Some are suspended in branches like Dr. Seuss pompoms, some are clustered like prickly plant life, another mimics a sea urchin amongst true aquatic curiosities. While outlandish, massive, and bright, they somehow don't distract from  the H. Julien merchandise. Like I said, it's a brilliant pairing.

Meeker's pieces will be on display until the end of the month. If you'd like to see them for yourself, I'd recommend you go twice- once during normal business hours, once after dark for full effect!