Sunday, 20 February 2011

kathleen hennessy - san francisco, usa

San Francisco is a city full of beautiful, provocative murals and street art. The Mission District neighborhood is especially known for this and there is an alley completely filled with different, amazing murals for everyone to enjoy. As I walked along I noticed the back doors of people's homes opening onto the alley and that those doors were also painted on, only I couldn't tell if an artist had done it, taking liberties using someone else's door as a canvas, or if the homeowner did it to keep the visual peace, or perhaps participate in the art at its back door. Either way, their door now belonged to anyone wanting to express themselves in this alley full of art. I kept wondering if that annoyed them or made them happy. This image is of one of those colorful back doors.
This is an image taken of a mural in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco. I love the rich, bright colors as it feels appropriate to the climate of this city that was famous for Haight Ashbury Love Ins in the 1960s. Someone has added graffiti in red to this mural, which is both a shame, and something that adds another dimension to the piece. Altogether, I found it a very appealing collage of statements. This is a city where almost everyone "writes on the walls".

This is another image taken from the alley full of murals where someone has tried gating their backdoor for safety. I found it to be an interesting, layered, accidental art piece with its various textures of metal, peeling paint, graffiti, and paper in the form of the faded Priority Mail envelope stuck into it. Was that deliberate? A statement about the U.S. postal service? Or a found object added for specific meaning? I enjoyed the mystery of it.

Walking along the city streets with a friend, I stopped to photograph this handmade doorbell sign which looked so wonderful next to the rusty mailbox slot and the ornate grey metal gate. So many different textures and designs going. But what I loved most was that someone wrote in a felt pen on masking tape the word "Doorbell" with an arrow in the middle pointing to the hard to find button. I had been noticing that same day that there were many handmade signs like this, even in restaurants, where someone just quickly wrote in a Sharpie pen, on any scrap of paper they had at the moment, some instruction to the obviously clueless public. These are not formal, nicely computer printed signs, but hand done, off the cuff spontaneous writings to solve some kind of apparently ongoing issue that needs a little personal explaining. I love the humanity of that.

In San Francisco, the bicycle has become a kind of icon for the ever increasing bike friendly nature of the town. We are a town of bike messengers, of environmental advocates supporting green ways to travel, of people who believe in exercising on their way to work, of people who just like to ride and have the ability to skip through all the vehicle traffic. Is there any rivalry between cars and bikes? You bet. On the last Friday of every month, during evening commute hours, an organized group of thousands of bicyclists, called Critical Mass, take to the streets pedaling away, tying up vehicle traffic, and occasionally sparking angry incidents, some verbal, some physical, between cyclists and drivers, keeping the city alive with colorful, spirited debate.

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