David Lance Goines: A Remembrance by L. John Harris


Right: The Chez Panisse Garlic Festival poster was offered to Edible East Bay for use on our 2006 summer issue cover. Left: The portrait of David Lance Goines (courtesy of the artist) is by Berkeley artist, Max Thill, who was a David Lance Goines apprentice/student in the last decade of Goines’s life. Although Thrill had previously made a portrait of David based on a photograph, he decided to redraw it as an homage: “I was a little hesitant to redraw this portrait of David because I worried it didn’t show enough of his generosity and warmth. But, upon reflection, this was the face he wore. He showed his generosity in actions, despite the haughty eccentricity he could sometimes project.”


When I met Berkeley’s celebrated printer and poster artist in the 1970s, it was during those ecstatic early days of our fledgling food revolution. Of course, we didn’t know it was a revolution; we were just enjoying ourselves, each other, and great food like we had tasted on trips to Europe in the 1960s.

I was a Cheese Boarder moonlighting as a waiter on opening night at Chez Panisse and David was a customer moonlighting, you might say, as a late 19th century European artist/dandy. I was delighted, and very grateful when he produced a poster to celebrate the Bastille Day Garlic Festival, which I had collaborated on with Alice Waters after my Book of Garlic came out in 1974,

David’s 1977 poster gave garlic an elegant and erotic twist never imagined by the earthy gods of garlic. Compare his sybaritic garlic goddess to the photo of an old lady braiding garlic in Arleux, France at the annual garlic harvest festival there, circa 1950s (my inspiration for a garlic festival in Berkeley and the model for Gilroy’s first festival in 1979).


Thanks to David, Garlic had arrived in pictorial splendor—from gastronomy’s humble bulb to our revolution’s bulbous beauty.

Wanting to say something personal about David Goines outside of the traditional eulogy or obituary format—that context is reserved for those who knew him much better than I—I’ve gone back to an interview I did with David last year for an oral history project related to a book I’m working on about Berkeley food in the so-called gourmet ghetto of the 1970s. My journalist self wanted to know David’s thoughts about our food scene, and my artist side wanted to understand the historical roots of his graphic work. Is there a connection between the two, our food and his art? I believe there is. So did David.
What I found out about David in that interview was informative and surprising: his sometimes hyperbolic but deeply considered perspective on California history (Mark Twain and the Gold Rush gave birth to Berkeley’s counterculture) that influenced both his poster work and our connection to gastronomy. For David, everything made in a particular time and place—clothing, music, furniture, art, architecture, food—is connected:
“What is the zeitgeist that’s forming these things…so that they’re all the same? Well, it’s in the water, it’s in the air… and with the aesthetic emerging out of Berkeley, beginning pretty dramatically in the early 1960s, we were all drinking the same water. We were all breathing the same air, and we were all doing work that is unmistakably the same. And my posters and Alice’s food are the same.”
His historical and cultural studies covered much greater swaths of time than California’s mere 150+ years, and his heroes, political and artistic, extended back millennia, past the Renaissance to ancient Greece.
David compared our cascading victories in the countercultural wars of the 1960s (free speech, antiwar, civil rights) to the defeat of the mighty Persians by the lesser Greeks at Marathon in 490 BCE. David was not shy about this bold proposition:
“[Our victory] wasn’t a half-hearted victory. It was 100% capitulation. It’s like when the Athenians drove the Persians out of Greece and they never came back. The Greeks had a sense of self that would never have arisen had they not beaten the Persians at Marathon.”
“That victory, that sense of self was,” David continued, “the key to the spirit of Athens emerging, along with its great men: Plato, Aristotle and Euclid.”
“Euclid,” I queried, “the mathematician or the Berkeley street?”
He laughed. David Goines did not laugh easily in my experience of him, and at that moment, I felt we knew each other. We were on the same page. Berkeley, “The Athens of the West.”
I’ll have more to say about David in my upcoming book: about his graphic style, influenced by Jugendstil (the German version of Art Nouveau)  and the Japanisme aesthetic he gleaned from his friend and shop neighbor, Kip Mesirow, who designed much of the interior look and feel of Chez Panisse. The story of the culinary principles and styles of our food revolution in the 70s and their relationship to our aesthetic styles in Berkeley, past and present, has yet to be told. David Lance Goines will help me tell it.
Thank you David! Rest in peace, and in love.
—L. John Harris