Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Watched her paint it, liked it, like it now. On a long boarded up theatre front, hair running parallel to the sidewalk. Enlarged, looking black and white, meaning done in blacks and whites and greys. I like it for a month before I got that it's on the old Strand theater and is a bunch of strands.

Most of the strands are horizontal, but one makes a backwards C and if you follow where it's pointing, it's pointing to the first letter in "Strand" above the blank marquee.

The artist is Paz de la Calzada; the piece is called "Central Market Dreamscape." It is part of an effort to make better the partly crummy neighborhood we are now supposed to call Central Market--Market 5th to 10th. The cool thing is that painting strands of hair on public places is something Paz de la Calzada has done more than once--it's just that this is the time she has done it under the word "Strand." Currently, a Google search for Central Market Dreamscape shows some of the process of making the piece and pictures of other pieces.

Maybe the Arts Commission sponsored art on boarded up storefronts in Central Market has helped unofficial painters on walls, graffiti folk, thinks bigger and more unified.

There's a new construction boarded up area at 6th and Market which the paper says is the intersection in San Francisco with the most crime. It's different than the storefronts in that if it's construction, there is a definite time limit on the boarded-up-ness. The Strand theatre has been boarded up for years.

The boarding goes around the corner at 6th and Market, and the new art/graffiti is on the 6th Street side. It feels unsponsored, which would make it graffiti. It feels undefinably excellent. I keep thinking about it. I don't get it, and I think there's something to get. I also think that it is partly pretty. Pretty is not thick upon the surfaces around 6th and Market.

There are big letters, which I can't quiet read. I can read the letters, sort of, but I can't make them be one thing, or remember them, when I look away even briefly.

There is light purple used to unify and emphasize the letters. And the whole unified assemblage of purple and letters seems to be spewing out drawn objects at one end. It's clever something or other factory that looks like letters. Or something. I really like the purple and how it's used.

Central Market, which was called Mid-Market the last time there was a campaign to make it better, can feel like a place where nothing is happening and nothing changes. Different alcoholics show up to rant on the sidewalk and eventually die. New immigrants come to raise their kids in a partly scary neighborhood.

The idea of and the execution of great bit images and often good art on the widely available in the neighborhood boarded up spaces creates actual change and an implication of more change to come. And is something for the kids to look and and know they can do.

One of my favorite murals in the city is on the 25th Street side of a corner store at 25th and Mission. It combines the art and the look of the art that was done in Mexico in the 1400's and before with the look of graffiti done now. It's all well done. Part of my fondness for it is that it was painted, and it's pretty complex in half a day, maybe three hours. All that graffiti practice, I assume, and a jolly good reminder to practice, plan, and when actually doing it, don't assume that anything important has to take forever.

The Aztec/Olmec/ graffiti now combo is a kind of utopia. Also a utopia vibe is had by a mural on Howard at 14th. A couple of extremely perspectived streets lined by white stucco, red tile houses and at the front of all that women serving food, all somehow having the feeling of the ideal dream community.

Semi-utopian is the mural blocks away with an extreme perspective Mission Street painted the colors of the rainbow and brown. The movie theatres that have been closed forever are operating with names like Cine Latino. A store has Esperanza as it's name and across Mission is Cafe Hope.

Above the mural, Mission Street, at 23rd and Capp, with the actual Mission Street a block away, hovers the word Value, written in the same kind of letters as the sign Giant Value on a Mission store. The word "Value" hovers above "hope" in two languages, above a store called "Dream," above the Mayan glyphs that are around the scene, above the woman carrying two armloads of flowers, one in a white plastic bucket, and the man pushing an ice cream bar cart.

And down in Clarion, an alley near Seventeenth and Mission tranformed by murals, there's the anti-utopian guy who seems to be staring in despair out of a window, maybe of one of the SRO hotels nearby, maybe of a mansion that isn't working for him.

Across the alley from him is a fairly new mural about respecting a man who died recently and did a lot--a despair changer and preventer about whom I need to follow instructions. Respect. Respect by learning about Pico Sanchez

The despair guy, if you drew a rough rectangle around the Mission District and its many murals, the despair guy is in the lower right hand corner of the rectangle and a utopian, hopeful school door with three hopeful kids looking around it is in the upper right hand corner, on Flynn school, which has much art on it.

The despair guy didn't go to a school that effectively showed him how to hope. These kids looking around the edge of a door expect the very best of learning. May the kids in that school get it. So very much art is a hopeful sign about what goes on inside.

Another mural on Flynn school is right on Cesar Chavez, which is named after one founder of the farmworkers union. The mural is about the other--Dolores Huerta. It's a march with her and many others, including kids, all together, equal, gleaming. It is a mosaic some pieces being pieces of glass so the mural and the march seems to move with the walker as the walker walks by.

The 24th and Mission McDonald's is covered with terrific art. The stuff in front looks like art by kids. I saw a four year old or so girl running over to a sun painted near the front door and petting it and patting it. The sun was about as tall as her. I think maybe this is real little kid art enlarged and painted by adults.

On the back of that McDonald's which occupies its entire building is sort of scarier stuff, like the content of an adult's waking or sleeping nightmares. Sort of whooshy cloud beings who don't seem friendly, for example. It's sort of utopian to have balanced up and down good art on a McDonald's. The art is by the Precita Eyes mural appreciation and creation group.

A little down 24th from McDonald's, in the direction of Potrero Hill, not the Noe Valley direction, is a perky, upbeat mural that includes UFO images. That feels good, because often UFO images are presented as bad news or very serious news. These are much closer to being good news, but good news you don't have to get all serious about.

It's at the corner of 24th and Cypress, an alley. There are hills and mountains. There is a calm guy meditating. There is an underground, I think, lovely river or lake. There is a UFO hovering above, but not overpowering the scene. There is one of those big eyed, triangular faced UFO folk being there, seeming happy among the various things happening. With the UFO being is a being who looks like an angel and being who looks like either a human in a zebra suit or a human-zebra combo. It's Utopian in that it all looks pretty merry, and UFO and their beings are digested and found nourishing and not exactly a big deal.

I was saying I liked the use of purple on the graffiti style art at Sixth and Mission that also seems like a mural because of feeling unified. It's not done yet.

So now I like the use of purple and red. Red added in the last couple of days. Two passion colors at a high crime corner, at a place that feels despairing and angry. The red and purple and the broad, black lines imply that you can get intensity without doing things that cops might feel that have to take action on.

The addition of red has made the items that I feel are spewing out of one side of the piece, being somehow created by the piece itself--the red makes those items look better.

I like this piece, painting on plywood around construction or remodeling, better when I see it when I going by on a bus than when I walk by it. I see unity and intention more from the bus. Close up, it falls back closer to graffiti says this is my name. On the bus, it seems to say something about the mystery of life and the mystery of creation.

Finding the right distance is good with art and other things.

I like the use of purplish red or reddish purple on the birds being painted between 21st and 22nd on Barlett.

The emerging birds are around an old, maybe seventies or eighties sign that says Mission Market and has a stylized chicken between the two words.

The new birds are much bigger, and are not chickens but magic stylized tropical birds. Their general style is like the chickens style and also makes me think of the bird god who used to be and in some places still is important around here.

Two birds today are done. They are happy, purplish red and blue and yellow, long tailed. Their tails aren't as long as Quetzacoatl but I think they've met Quetzacoatl.

Another bird isn't done, but is well on the way--yellow and orange, same kind of body. Another bird is just sketched out with lines. The way space is being used implies more than four will be the total number of birds.

Art walls call forth art walls.

This wall, the bird and Mission Mart wall, is between some kid wall painting and some adult wall painting. The kid paintings are little and close to the ground and look like little kids stood at the wall and did them.

The adult painting was more complicated to do. It's a painting of an old, 1790's altar at Mission Dolores which is now behind the current altar. The old altar can't be seen. The space it's in is narrow. The people who made this mural first photographed the old altar in pieces by letting a camera down into the narrow space. They put the photos together,and painted it how it looks now. Worn, layered, powerful is how it looks now.

What can't be seen in Mission Dolores can be seen blocks away on Bartlett.

The mural includes wornness, a recurrent curly pattern with a floral feeling without explicit flowers, a heart with a sword through it, another heart with three arrows through it, the feeling of power.

"Rest in power," it says at the beginning of the Pico Sanchez mural at Clarion and Mission. It says "Please Respect. Pico Sanchez. Rest in Power" next to a painted portrait of Pico Sanchez. The next panel of the mural over says, "Remembrance Is Power" over Pico Sanchez name in big letters made of bright colors.

"Please Respect" here means two things, at least. It means respect Pico Sanchez. It means respect this mural and don't mess it up.

I recognize those words in the same handwriting from a mural on the retaining wall a parking lot for the Mission National Bank. The mural is for kids and runs along a, in many ways, outstandingly cruddy alley near Sixteenth and Mission--Caledonia. Parallel to Mission and Valencia, running off Sixteenth near Valencia. I often go a little out of my way to walk down that trashful alley and see the mural.

It brings out the little kid looking in me. I look and look and like it, but can't quite figure parts of it out. It reminds me of when I was a little kid trying to figure out some visual images that got my attention, and couldn't quite figure them out.

Sometimes I couldn't figure them out because there wasn't that much to figure. I, young, assumed that everyone putting forth things in public was making there best effort. Not always true.

A good thing about murals is that usually people are putting forth a best effort, and there efforts are worth looking at repeatedly and mulling.

The kid's mural on the playground retaining wall by the same muralist who did the Pico Sanchez mural feels like it's from a complicated and well-thought utopia appropriate for kids. There's a Kids At Play sign and around it many kids playing, and with them, a dinosaur smaller than they are. I imagine that that is a real living small dinosaur that is their pet.

Next to that on the long mural is a series of images that are sort of like hills rounded off on the bottom as well as the top. And sort of like letters that don't generally exists. There's lots of room inside these entities for images like four red circles of increasing size that may be a new planet growing. There are also blobby images with events inside that seem kind of like what might be happening in our body cells right now. Maybe the images of the regular kids playing is followed by these images of what's happening inside the kids' bodies and minds, and their universe. Maybe.

Further down the mural, a little girl is next to the words "The day is saved." She looks like a super-hero mural painter, to me.

I keep wondering how it all fits together-- the images in the mural and the thought behind the images. I think and think and am about five as a think. I don't solve, but I improve my synapses, partly by spending some thought time being five.

I can see that mural again and again, easy. The current prices of getting into art museums don't encourage again and againness. The day is saved by us leaving lively gifts around for each other to find, among things.

If your wisdom about the world comes to you in pictures you can paint, and if you get good mural paint and owner's permission, your outdoor wall picture could be there for people to see again and again for a good little while. Entering into a child's early strong memories, making an adult's daily routine different and more artful--with a touch of something different than today's problems, and what to buy or not buy.

Murals do not last forever, though good mural paint makes a huge difference, but while they last they are seen by many.

A painting seen more by night than by day has two moons in it, and a thinking human. Night is a good time to be thinking, and seeing art in public where you don't expect it is a good time to think.

Haircuts Today on Mission between 18th and 19th offers haircuts for the whole family when it's open. When it's closed, and its rolling metal security gate is down, it offers a picture painted on the gate of a woman with long dark hair looking sideways, thinking, smiling a little, with a crescent moon on her right and a full moon on her left. She's being pretty, being smart. Her hair spreads to cover most of the security gate. Her hair is filled with stars. She was painted by Pico Sanchez.

Stars are there, above Mission Street, but it's in a lit part of a lit city, and they can't be seen. The many stars in the thinking woman's hair are showing a fact that can't otherwise be seen.

Blank walls and blanks faces can make a city dweller think everybody else is simple and you're the only one roiling around, like an ocean, like a rain forest, like a wetland, like the sky.

It makes sense that Pico Sanchez site ends in dot net, picosanchez dot net, because he cast a very wide net, by being alive all time. He was an artist, creator of images, and person who was there for people. He did a lot, by always doing.

The serene picture of a woman, two moons, and stars at Haircuts Today is part of Pico Sanchez noticing the sky in different ways between 18th and 19th on Mission.

Two doors down from the serene woman who is a reminder that serene comes from Serena, a goddess of the moon, is a non-serene view of the sky with no people. It's churning, the sky. It feels like sky orbs are being created, like they are emerging from big sky, big bang energy when Vimy Electronics is closed and the security door is down. It's a powerful swirl, and up in the corner is the sun, loving it, with a big grin.

There's a smaller store front between those two sky pictures. It's security door is the kind that folds up and spreads out to close. You couldn't paint a picture on it.

When the two sky pictures on either side are visible, and you look at the from across the street, it looks like the little, pictureless storefront feels left out. "Where's my sky?"

Across the street is also something to look at, a picture of the part of the sky between sitting people and orbs being created. The part of the sky with air in it that birds can fly in is on the security door of Eagle Loan Co., Pawnbroker.

An eagle is flying. It's long door with the Eagle flying in from the left and lots of sky ahead of the eagle, room to move. The way the air molecules are dottily made, they look look like they are enthusiastically supporting the eagle's flight.

Room to move and support--hope on the door of the pawn shop.

All the near 19th and Mission sky meditations of Pico Sanchez are shown at picosanchez dot net under Commissions.

Pico Sanchez lived in a utopia, which is a lot of work, and he took on a good chunk of that work. He lived in Project Artaud (are-TOE), a long-time artist live-work space in a great old brick building in the Mission near 17th and Alabama.

Ideal collective situations are great moves against our culture of individual striving and suffering. And they take much maintenance because USA people don't have that much experience with serious cooperation, generally. Discontent that might be vented at a landlord or boss is instead available for cooperators to direct at each other.

Some people also kind of expect, without maybe knowing it, that being in an alternative situation could or should heal all their wounds.

All this inexperience and expectation can get run through meetings about the mundane everydayness of keeping things going, keeping the physical from falling down.

The process can be talk intensive and wisdom intensive. When he died, Pico Sanchez was president of Project Artaud, president of a old brick building, former American can company factory small-scale utopia.

"Strand" is a word that goes way back, Old Norse, and first meant the edge of something, a boundary. Going from there, it means the edge of water, river or ocean, and specifically, sometimes, the area between the high tide and the low tide. Strand came to mean running someone, in a water battle, up on the land where you can get them, in an unfriendly way.

Which led to strand meaning abandon someone. The Strand in London follows what used to be the edge of the river. I had in my mind the idea of Strand as a fancy street when I first really thuoght about the name of that long boarded over theatre on Market.

But I didn't think about it's name at all until Paz De La Calzada painted her strands on the boards below the sign. She woke me up. She paints strands in city places in different cities, which sometimes have the effect of making things seem pulled together by something human.

There's something about hair strands and painting them big that only Paz De La Calzada knows, and which she shares.

Sometimes we strand each other in the city by keeping our knowledge inside and our faces blank. My family was good and supportive about me reading and reading, but the kids at school thought it was pretty weird. I like that the mural on playground retaining wall includes a super-heroine dressed little girl flying and zapping energy and support to a little boy who is leaning against a tree reading. Kid-to-kid rah-rah for reading for kids seem utopian, based on my experience, and it's lovely to see.

The fourth bird riffing on the chicken in the Mission Market sign has arrived, and it's standing on the ground, where little kids can see it eye to eye, and can touch it if they want.

The other three birds are up in the middle by the logo and oriented toward it. This bird is on the edge by the sidewalk and looking out, sideways, towards the images painted by little kids. Some graphic artist, maybe a decade or two ago, did a fine job, but not too noticable, in designing the chicken in the Mission Market sign, and now, much later, another artist is playing on and on with it, outstandingly, dramatically, in a way that makes that bit of wall rewarding of much study, when there used to be barely anything to look at. From "This is the back of Mission Market" to color, grace, flight, and still, "This is the back of Mission Market."

Three more birds have been painted in now, and the ones who seemed to be flying now have strong dark branches underneath them. They are supported. Like we the humans are supported all the time by nature and branches and the skills of those who know how to keep this complex nest we've made working.

The building of Local 38 of the plumbers and pipefitters union on Market near Van Ness is next to a parking lot. The big wall facing the parking lot was blank for years.

Now it has a big "38" on it and a few big red and white stripes, as from the flag running along the bottom and big people, doing what plumbers and pipefitters do. The big people working on the wall echo faintly, just loudly enough, 1930's superheros.

They wear dramatic costumes with masks when they are welding. The painting of sparking flying off welding look also like super-hero power marks. The big wrench looks like it has the power to do anything.

It's easy to imagine a child looking at the mural saying, "I want to do that."

When it's your time to put something you know on a wall, good mural paint helps. Owner's permission, or enthusiastic support helps. Preparing the surface helps, so the good mural paint can stick.

Clean off, maybe scrape off the surface. Put on your best version of something you know.

If we put our unique knowing on cleaned surfaces to be seen, we help each other have better, more healed depths, depths we're happy to visit and learn from. We have depths we don't run from but take walks with.

What's right by the bird on the ground on the back of Mission Market, what it's looking toward, in the painted by kids section, is a painted green stem about as tall as a toddler, with seven light purple flowers on it and five light purple buds. Above it, a little sun and moon, about the size of the flowers, are shining, and above the sun and moon, a dove is flying, blessing everything.