The Eyes Have It

Today, the last of the pictures I took while on a Mission Trail Mural walk down in San Francisco.

Who wouldn’t want to come home to these garage doors?

The murals in the Mission are an example of a community working together with artists to transform alleys into places where you want to hang out and not simply get through as fast as possible. They reflect the histories and passions of the residents and also provide an escape pod for the imagination. For example, if you look closely in the mural below (painted on a garage door and thus eligible for entry in Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors event) you can see a  figure in the pupil of the eye.  If I had to guess I’d say it’s a soldier in a helmet. 

Below the eye is a row of lashes perhaps inspired by Clockwork Orange?

This mural is one of my favorites.  It promises that if you open the door you’ll find yourself in a magical world.

Below is a crowd favorite.  People (particularly women) stood in front of this mural forever and would not move until they’d identified each face of “the women of the resistance.”
I didn’t even try.  I was more interested in the figures hovering over them (all dressed in business suits). The message was, if you’re wearing a business suit you’re most likely either polluting the planet or a greedy warmonger.

If you’re planning a trip to San Francisco and/or have a particular interest in murals, check out the PrecitaEyes website. This group has been promoting street art since 1977. They even have a museum and a community center. To see other special doors from around the floor, check out Norm’s place.

 

Alta Impunidad (street art in the Mission)

I have to admit, the following murals from the Mission district in San Francisco (see The Mission, Part 1)  were some of my favorites.

The first one shows women perhaps pleading for news about missing loved ones or perhaps mourning them while above a dove flies towards a group of military men, one of them with dollar bills in his eyes.

Next to it is a mural depicting a joyful harvest.

The text on their rainbow banner reads: “I give you a song like a tribute, like a book, a word, a freedom fighter, like I give love,”  Silvio Rodriquez.

I didn’t recognize the name and so I googled him.  Wow – such a beautiful voice.

 

On the other side of this particular alley was a mural spanning half a block which depicted a modern day street scene.  This is only part of the mural.  Another section (which I didn’t get a good shot of) shows the police arresting young men.

The third section is perhaps the most powerful. It depicts the banks  pulling the plug on the neighborhood.

And why?  In upper right corner is a sign advertising “Alta Impunidad, Luxury Hipster Community, for techies with lots of cash.”  Just below the sign are two figures in black with canisters on their backs spraying something on the flowers (Blackflag?).   Written on one of the canisters is the word “Facebook.”

Alta Impunidad translates to High Impunity.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about what the artist was trying to say.

The Mission, Part 4: The World is an Orange

This mural is most likely a tribute to Isabel Allende and Pablo Neruda, both of whom made references to oranges in their work.

Allende wrote of a trip to northern Peru (in My Invented Country):  “Thirst was unquenchable. We drank water by the gallon, sucked oranges, and had a hard time defending ourselves from the dust, which crept into every cranny.”

And Neruda actually wrote a poem entitled: Ode to the Orange

Above is a block party on Mission Street.  Note the tourist with his camera watching the street artists at work and the folks dancing in the street.  There is a fruteria in the middle of the block depicted in the scene and it has its own street art (below) however don’t ask me to interpret this one.  I suspect they were selling more than fruit.

The one below could have been done by the same artist however it has a clear meaning. A woman giving birth to a baby and the ocean.  That one could give me nightmares.

Below is a gallery of this and that. The first two murals are depictions of Frida Kahlo, who along with her husband, is a patron saint of muralists.  The third I believe is a homage to rap stars although I only recognized a few of the names.  Then there’s a group of people gathered around a picture of the Pope (and that’s all I dare speculate on that one.) Of course I had to take a picture of Max sailing out to join the Wild Things.  It was one of my children’s favorite books.

The last one shows the Earth being held up by a couple of indigenous people while parrots hover.  In the lower right is a city bus full of people which seems to have been converted into a space shuttle. In the upper left the eagle clutching a snake could have many interpretations.  I can’t decide if the message of this mural is hopeful or worrisome.   The hope of the world resting on the backs of a few people.

Next time, the plug is pulled.

 

The Mission, Part 3: Whimsy

Not all of the murals you’ll find in the alleyways of the Mission district of San Francisco have an overt message.  Some are whimsical and fun.

Below we have a rooster wearing a crown and angel wings while having his morning coffee.  Above him reads “Protecting our home from gentrification.”  Is he the winged avenger out to save the community from yuppies?  Or is he the developer hell bent on gentrifying the neighborhood? Heck, maybe he’s just a figment of the artist’s imagination.

The following two are side by side.

Okay … scratches head.  Pink feathers orbiting the sun?  Sun dispensing pink feathers?

Hum, Death Star breaking through barriers to join the Donut Galaxy?

Other murals (in the gallery below) seem to depict a skateboarding Spider Man, Che Guevara fighting a deer-headed man, a space ship taking off, man-sized thorny flowers, a drug deal gone sour, and an elephant god holding pink parasols. (click on any image to see them full size)

Feel free to add your interpretations in the comments.  My favorites of the murals tomorrow.

The Mission, Part 1

Alleys are generally not on a tourist’s “must see” list.  In fact they’re generally on the “do not enter” list.  Muggers and bums live in alleys.  Trashcans overflow in alleys.  Drug dealers hang like vampire bats in alleys.  But in an area of San Francisco known as The Mission and famous for the annual Castro Street faire and the Brazilian inspired Carnaval  a network of alleyways is slowly becoming a must-see.

These are someone’s garage doors.  Most of the homes and businesses in this area back up to alleys, providing a graffiti artist’s paradise. 

And then gradually the area began to attract muralists.

Because this area is heavily hispanic, many of the garage doors are blessed by the Holy Mother.

Many of the murals cover not only the garage doors but the entire back and sides of buildings and the alleys are narrow.

Thus it’s difficult for a spot-and-click photographer such as myself to get the entire image. The garage doors are beneath the GG Bridge.

Many of the murals have political or socioeconomic  messages.

This one pertains to the Palestinian struggle although I’m not sure what the arrows on the right mean – no way out?

Okay – these are the best from the first alley.  There are three more to go.  Checkout other doors over at Norm Frampton’s ThurdayDoor event. 

 

#ThursdayDoors: Sky Hearts

I haven’t been blogging or writing much lately.  The reason: the heat. The heat steals all my ambition and leaves me longing for short days and long nights, the rain, the fog and particularly the drizzle. Even when a cool breeze is blowing, being outside this time of year requires pockets full of Kleenex. Allergy medicine only renders me more useless. However today is Thursday Doors and so I have roused myself sufficiently to finally move on from Janis Joplin.

This is the entrance to American Conservatory Theater (ACT), also known as the Geary, in downtown San Francisco.  It’s a non-profit theater and acting school which has launched the successful careers of innumerable actors since it was built in 1910. The doors are not that fancy unless you look at the detailing around the portico.

The Curran Theater is right next door.

This theater hosts commercially successful plays and musicals whereas the ACT focuses on pieces that are meant to be discussed and analyzed.  There are, of course, hundreds of theaters in San Francisco but these two along with the Orpheum (which is further down Market Street) are the biggies. Of course, we were in the City to see a play so finding these theaters and their doors was something I expected to do. No surprise there. However it’s always the unexpected that is the most fun to share.

Like a plane forming a heart over Union Square. I have no idea why.  A marriage proposal?

And then after lunch we stumbled upon this interesting “window”?

A peace sign made of license plates.  On the other side of the wall is this most unusual conference room.

Sure beats the conference rooms where I spent way too many hours of my life. I don’t know why CEOs think something creative is going to come out of a boring, drab room with no windows but they do. We would not have discovered these two delightful places had I not had to pee. They were both in the basement of the hotel/restaurant where we’d chosen to have lunch: The Zeppelin.

If the heat’s not getting you down (or even if it is) head on over to Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors event. Perhaps someone else has stumbled onto something unique while trying to find a place to pee.

If you’re going to San Francisco

Poster from the Fillmore circa 1966

On Sunday we were invited to the Geary Theatre in downtown San Francisco to see A Night With Janis Joplin.  Had it been any other play we probably would have said no. You see, over a million people were expected to descend on downtown San Francisco on that same day for one of the largest Pride Parades in the world.  If you’ve ever been to downtown SF you know it’s a densely populated area, particularly down Market Street (the parade route).  An extra million people during the middle of the day would definitely impact our ability to get to the theater, even on mass transit. But Janis Joplin is San Francisco. And so we went.

We arose from the bowels of the Powell Street station into the heart of the parade which we were unable to see but heard. It was so disorienting to be in the churn of revelers that I had to pause and check the iPhone to get our bearings.  But finally we shuffled through the glitter, the rainbow balloons and the confetti and made to our destination.

The “play” got off to a raucous start with the actress playing Joplin belting out Piece of My Heart with such ferocity that I began to wonder how the poor gal was going to make it through the next 90 minutes without doing irreparable damage her throat.  But luckily the playwright had a plan.  “Joplin” pauses every now and then to tell her audience about her life and each of the jazz and blues legends who inspired her, then summons their ghosts to take over the stage while she rests her vocal chords. Later she  returns to demonstrate how she took their songs and interpreted them for the rock genre. One of the songs was Summertime from Porgy and Bess.

Here’s Joplin’s interpretation:

Another was Odetta’s Down on Me, an old Spiritual or Freedom Song:

For this song, Joplin actually changed the lyrics, deleting the Bible references.

Our friends were split as to which versions they preferred but I loved them all.  Books can inspire movies, plays and even other books but in the end they always belong to the writer, whereas a song always belongs to the heart of a singer.

Do you have favorite interpretations of songs that veer wildly from first renditions? If so, I’d love to hear about them.  It’s kind of an obsession of mine.