Monday, September 12, 2011

Urban Repurposing – Sunday Streets as Conceptual Art

Fulton Street - Sunday Streets - September 11, 2011

I have to confess that I had a lack of enthusiasm for Sunday Streets when it started back in 2008. I kind of assumed it was just another street festival. San Francisco loves its street festivals. You can find one happening just about every weekend for nearly six months of the year. And while they vary by theme and neighborhood, they all begin to feel the same after 20 years. Actually, that was my reaction after living five years in San Francisco.

Sunday Streets is a very different thing altogether. With Sunday Streets you get a whole piece of a neighborhood closed-off to traffic. Usually about 20 blocks are emptied. Street Festivals are much more compact and usually very crowded. It’s a different energy at Sunday Streets. While there are small crowds of activity at different spots, there is none of that get-me-out-of-here feeling most crowds give me.

A few friends have asked me “What’s there to do?” It’s hard to answer. It’s more just about hanging out and enjoying the space. Running into friends and neighbors. There are tables here and there from different community groups and there are some fun activities for kids. There is some music and dancing. But unlike the street festivals, the bands that choose to play, might find their biggest crowds come from toddlers. Yesterday, across from the police station on Fillmore Street a band called Rin Tin Tiger was playing (good band name). Their Facebook Page indicates they often get hassled by the police for playing on the street. It was nice to see them getting to perform without trouble across from the station. It’s kind of the essence of what Sunday Streets is all about — repurposing the streets for play.

If you have ever perused the library’s historic photo collection, one thing you quickly notice is how empty the San Francisco’s streets used to be. I live on a busy street with three lanes of traffic. It’s one of San Francisco’s one-way, “freeway” streets. Photos of the street from the 1920’s show a street with plenty of parking spaces and few cars. Could the City of the past be the City of the future? Not that I see Sunday Streets as being anti-car — it’s more about showing us an alternative. Streets without cars.

The removal of cars and emptying of streets for other purposes, even occasionally, transforms the space. San Francisco has many people who feel they are quite clever heading up to the Nevada desert and installing an urban space called Burning Man every year. For me, the real act of art is creating open space out of urban streets.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Monster Pals

Some Collage Monsters I created earlier this week for the 2011 Project have inspired a bigger piece, this one is 10"x10". Prints are available from Society 6.

Zine Fest 2011

The annual Zine Fest that happens in San Francisco is becoming an event that is getting a permanent spot on my calendar. It’s growing, yet is still small enough to feel accessible and manageable. I am not a fan of massive events. Labor Day Weekend is one of my favorites in San Francisco. It feels like half the City is at Burning Man. The rest of us have the place to ourselves and get to have this really cool event.

There were some familiar artists at this year’s Zine Fest but quite a few I had not seen before. Some of the highlights of this year’s event include:

  • The disturbing and very wrong (and hilarious) work from Poopy Lickles.
  • After recovering from that, at the next table was the cool mail art from Jennie Hinchliff.
  • I really like Charlene Fleming’s work. She is filling small sketchbooks with beautiful San Francisco illustrations. A few are available as prints. Hopefully there will be an art book in the future that is essentially a reproduction of one of her sketchbooks.
  • I couldn’t tell if Ray Sumser had crashed the event. Not that anyone seemed to mind. He was set up outside with his rather obsessive and wonderful work titled The Comicosm. (But I am never one to criticize obsessive behavior when it comes to art).
  • If I were going to select a Best in Show award it would go to Josh Ellingson. I just loved the image (seen above) from his BART poster series. You can buy a print from his website.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Have I Invented a Glue?

This all started with a visit to SCRAP back in 1997. Among the treasures in my bag was a piece of Plexiglas. I decided to play around with it and started by doing a collage front-to-back so the final piece had this embedded feel. Typically collage is all about building from the back to the front, layers on top of layers. I was reversing the process. When one paints and collages on Plexiglas or regular glass it goes front-to-back. The mixed media process was a fusion of Victorian glass painting and collage. I called it Reverse Collage.

That one experiment with Plexiglas led to a whole series of work. It included over 100 reverse collages. Most were small, 6”x6” and usually installed in a grid pattern. They were shown in a few galleries, sold many of them and I even did a demonstration at the de Young Museum as part of an artist in residence series.

Okay, I confess, I do google myself. It’s interesting to see who is linking to my website and where I am turning up. About 10 years back I started coming across a few word origin websites that credited me with inventing the term Reverse Collage. I was bemused and a bit flattered. Now, when you google Reverse Collage, I still come up. But it seems the idea has spread through the world of crafters. There are websites, youtube videos and instructions all over how to do reverse collages. But wait, there’s more…..

Last week I came across a product called Reverse Collage Glue from a craft supply company called Aleene’s. I was simply amused. What an unnecessary product. Any clear drying glue will work just fine, products like Golden Medium or GAC or even plain old Elmer’s.

As the “inventor” of Reverse Collage I can say there is no need for any special glue.