Murals in San Francisco

I’ve recently returned from a trip to San Francisco. My husband was working there on business, which gave me the opportunity to roam the streets and explore the city during the day. I have previously blogged about San Francisco in a piece inspired by Armistead Maupin. This time we were staying in the Tenderloin district, an area I found distressing due to the extent of the in- your- face homelessness. Many of the homeless are also clearly mentally ill. There is a very evident contrast between the haves and have nots in this incredibly beautiful city – take the wrong turn and you are suddenly immersed in surreal dystopia. Yet it is not surrealism or a film set, it is the reality. I was told by some locals and hotel staff not to engage and make eye contact but ignoring a huge sector of society is something I find hard disturbing and problematic. Funnily enough last night I watched the concluding episodes of the 2019 Tales of the City miniseries, based on Maupin’s novels. At one point Ysela, a transwoman, played by the brilliant Daniela Vega, is greeting and chatting warmly to some homeless people who are seated on the pavement and chastises a passer by who is on his cell phone oblivious to his surroundings and who casually steps over them.

In this post I have decided to concentrate another prominent aspect of the city – its murals and street art. I initially thought that the mural below at the Tenderloin end of Market Street was a portrait of a homeless man who happened to resemble the late Robin Williams but it is indeed a portrait of the actor who committed suicide in August 2014. This mural was painted by Argentinan muralist Andreas Iglesias, who goes by the name of Cobre. I like the fact that in this photograph the passing man happens to be wearing a red hoodie covered in white text in different font sizes spelling the words SAN FRANCISCO:

After posting this image on my Instagram feed I received a message from artist and fashion designer Daniel Chimowitz who I had previously met in Venice, Italy and how now lives in San Francisco. He was in the process of painting a mural in the Mission District and I thought it would be a fun to drop by and see him and take some photographs.

Chimowitz was collaborating with artist Deanna Ulrich on a new mural at La Torta Gorda, a Mexican restaurant on 24th Street. Here are some photos of them in action:

Deanna, Daniel & myself:

I walked around the neighbourhood and explored some of the side streets. The following images were taken in Balmy Alley, which is filled with murals. According to the Balmy Alley website, the murals originated in the 80s as an expression of artists’ outrage over human rights and political abuses in Central America. What struck me about the time and place was the relationship between nature and the painted images; the late August flowers contributing to and somehow inseparable from the street art:

Imagery honouring Mexican film stars – La Dona Diabla aka The Devil is A Woman, from 1950:

And of course Frida Kahlo:

I was also struck by this mural featuring the representation of a woman giving birth:

Also in the neighbourhood I came across some murals featuring dancers. This is a detail of a piece honouring latin music radio presenter Chata Gutierrez – I was immediately drawn to the rumba dancers .

And a huge glitzy samba dancer painted on garage doors, with added street signage:

This facade combined religious iconography with intense colour:

A poster commemorating the death of Rigoberto Romero of Shotwell Street – in the background a mural featuring Mexicana:

Walking around on another day I inadvertently came across The Women’s Building, a community centre and safe place focussing on women’s issues. It is covered in artwork. Here are some of the photos I took:

Interestingly, a dominant part of the facade also featured the representation of a heavily pregnant indigenous woman, the foetus visible in her womb:

Some more details of the facade – art and nature intertwined:

Colour and striking imagery:

Next are some images that are more street photography in genre, involving murals taken during my wanderings in San Francisco. The photo below features part of a super-sized mural honouring women’s strength. Entitled Strong Women and created by street artist Believe in People, the work can be seen on exiting a side entrance of the Westfield shopping Mall in the SOMA district. I like the fact the street cleaner was passing by – a strong woman herself who is also tiny in scale compared to the artwork.

A woman waiting for a bus, a huge peacock mural behind her. I believe this is on the corner of Leavenworth and that the artist is called Satyr:

A woman with a hula hoop in the Mission District:

A mural of a cyclist seen through the window of a Bart train:

And finally, some shadows and reflections in Mission:


Also published on Medium.

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