Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Unleashed TheARTre

This piece is on the way to Eberhard Janke (Edition Janus) in Berlin for his mail art call with the theme The Unleashed TheARTre.   Sending something from San Francisco, I felt the need to get out the glitter and memorialize one of our greatest homegrown theatre troupes — The Cockettes.  They were before my time in San Francisco and the Palace Pagoda Theatre is no more.  But I loved the performances when the Thrillpeddlers revived their shows in recent years.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Oak Woodlands

The story of Golden Gate Park is of a windswept landscape of dunes that 150 years ago were transformed into 1,107 acres a public park.   As beautiful as the park is, it is essentially artificial.  The waterfalls, the gardens, the redwoods, the meadows — none of it was there before.  Thanks to irrigation, horse manure and gardening, the natural landscape was transformed.   And while I appreciate coastal dunes, it’s hard to argue with Golden Gate Park — it is the escape from urban life we all need at times.
But the story has a twist.  This week I visited unspoiled nature with a lovely walk through some typical California oak woodlands.   Hiding in the northeast corner of Golden Gate Park, generally overlooked by most visitors, is a magical place.  A pocket of the original landscape that was never altered. 
It is difficult to capture the woodlands in photos or a painting, but it was worth a try.

Monday, June 22, 2020

June Mail

Things are far from getting back to normal, but the flow of mail art (sent and received) seems to be picking up.  Mail art does make for some safe, socially distant fun.  A recent trip to the post office box included zines big and small.  Theo Nelson is taking mail he receives and turning pieces into one-of-a-kind zines.  Robin Sparrow’s delicate, shimmering, hand sewn piece made it through the mail all the way from New Zealand.  And it’s good to see things are busy at Gregg Biggs’ Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera.  
The mail shown here includes:
  1. Debra Mulnick – Idaho
  2. Kathy Barnett – Missouri
  3. Gregg Biggs – Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera – California
  4. William Mellott – Taiwan 
  5. Fleur Helsingor - California 
  6. Theo Nelson – Canada
  7. Robin Sparrow — New Zealand 
  8. Dori Singh – California 

Pandemic Park

This weekend I stayed at home and painted.  This was my view one afternoon last week while I read a book in shady spot in Alamo Square.

Because I can enjoy our parks on weekday afternoons.  I tend to avoid the crowds on weekends.   This was true even before the pandemic.   I’ve noticed that most people seem to be practicing social distancing and, until they safely settle into a spot, usually wear a mask. That said we have a certain amount of careless and self-centered fools right here in San Francisco — for example, in 2016 9% of San Francisco voters chose the racist, Russian stooge who will remain nameless.  

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Hayes Valley Secrets

In 1990, Hayes Valley was a scrappy neighborhood, with affordable (!) rents.  All bisected by the behemoth of the Central Freeway.  A noisy, dirty, elevated structure that nearly collapsed in the Loma Prieta Earthquake.  Gradually, over many years and political maneuvering, the freeway was torn down.   If you never saw the freeway, it is hard to imagine it was ever there.  

Commercial rents were low back then and retail pioneers started to take a chance on Hayes Valley.  In those days they were local, homegrown businesses.  Many of those shops were too high end for the times.  Quite a few lasted about a year.  There were even rumors of money-laundering fronts.  That said, some succeeded for a long time and a handful of the original stores are still in the neighborhood.   Today, Hayes Valley has become one of the most expensive retail strips in one of the most expensive cities in the world.  No one will be opening up a shop or restaurant without deep pockets and wealthy investors.

In the 1990s one of my favorite hang outs was a small café called Momi Toby’s.  I had spent countless hours there by the time I discovered the hidden world beneath the café and sidewalk prisms just out front.  One day, I was in the neighborhood with an open studios map and one of the locations was Momi Toby’s.  

At first, I assumed I would see an art show in the café.  I stepped inside, what I thought was a wooden panel had been opened.  It revealed a hidden doorway and a narrow, windy staircase.  It was like a secret passage.  The stairs took me below the café to a large, high-ceilinged, room that expanded below the sidewalk.  Natural light filled the space.   It was so unexpected — it was magical. The room was tiled with built in ovens along one wall.  I discovered the building had once been home to a bakery and below Momi Toby’s was now Tinhorn Press.  

Tinhorn Press is gone.  Momi Toby’s eventually changed hands, the prices climbed. Now it is replaced by a smart bar.  Still, when I walk down Laguna Street, I often think about the secret world under my feet.   A world far cooler and more interesting than a neighborhood with shops that sell $500 shoes and thimbles of ice cream for $7.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Pandemic Haircuts

Took a break from painting the neighborhood.   A friend sent me a photo of his homemade haircut and color job, and well, I could not resist making it into a painting.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Victorian Perpectives

My view, while waiting for a take away lunch the other day on Fillmore Street in the Lower Haight.   

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Germania Street

San Francisco is one of the world’s most photographed and filmed cities.  Because of movies, television or advertising, many people all over the world feel they know what San Francisco looks like — in the same way many people “know” New York, London or Paris.  I myself live two blocks from the “must see” vista of Victorian houses in Alamo Square.  
It is hard for me to avoid the most ubiquitous San Francisco imagery. But how do we locals really see our city?  How should local artists portray San Francisco? You could not fault any artist for wanting to paint the Golden Gate Bridge or other iconic images, but some of us have a different lens.
Here we are still sheltering in place but may still take, safe, socially distanced walks.  I have been sticking close to home.  For example, walking down quiet streets like Germania in the Lower Haight.  The other day the garbage truck had already been through when I snapped a photo of the scattered empty plastic bins — black for trash, blue for recycling and green for compost.  No, not a postcard, but an image that any local would recognize as San Francisco.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Grove Street Steps

Artist tip: Choose to paint crumbling Victorian, concrete stairs and don’t worry about perfect, even lines. 😉

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Alamo Square Poppies

Even sheltering in place in San Francisco, we are allowed to go out, get some fresh air and exercise — as long as we practice social distancing.  Some days I just climb up to the top of Alamo Square.  I live close to the famous park.  In 2016 the park was closed for a year allowing for a much-needed overhaul.  Three years later, the replanted gardens have come into their own.  The flower beds have been explosions of color this Spring.   
The painting is the view looking west from Pierce and Hayes Street.  Not the popular postcard view, but one of my personal favorites.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Postage Stamp Collages

Another round of handmade postcards are being mailed today.   Here are just a few from the series.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Stay Home, Make Mail Art — Royal Mail Art!

From a series of very Royal Mail Art.  It will be mailed while on my safe-social-distancing-walk today. All from old postage stamps featuring Queen Elizabeth (plus a few old stamps of her father, uncle and grandfather).   

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art — An Artist Book

Thousands of thousands of old postage stamps.  They came from my childhood collection to ones peeled from envelopes to ones purchased or given to me for making collages.   Many have found their way into this new artist book created while I have been sheltering in place this past few months.   And yes, there are still some left, the remainder are being incorporated into mail art that will be sent out in the coming days.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mail Art in the Time of Plague

I knew someone would be sending me a plague doctor postcard — I’ve been seeing that image in my head for months.  Of course, I am not the only one drawing masks on postage stamps.  I received a postcard from Gina Visione (1).  Peter Müller (2) reminds us to pray to Saint Corona. Gregg Biggs (3) latest offering from the Museum of Unclaimed Ephemera features two ladies who are all dressed up with nowhere to go.  And the latest piece from Kathy Barnett (4) just cracked me up — thank you!
The volume of mail art has unsurprisingly declined.  I have read that the movement of mail between some countries is barely happening if at all. 
I have avoided trips to check my post office box.  San Francisco has closed some streets to through traffic.  I now can walk all the way up Page Street to Clayton Street and easily get to my post office branch and practice social distancing. I can order stamps online or wait to buy them from the postal staff.  They are also wearing masks and are relatively safely behind new Plexiglas shields.  

The problem is the narrow passage to my post office box way in the back.  It’s a room where social distancing is impossible.  The few times I have gone up there, I have always had to ask someone to leave the post office so I can get to my box.  Some of us go in, key at the ready, open, mail in bag, shut and lock and get out the door.  But then there are the other post office boxholder types.  Every post office has them.  The post office is their reading and sorting room where they need to spend 20 minutes examining every piece of mail, including random junk mail, before they exit the building.  No pandemic will get them to change their habits.  I get glared at every time I ask one of them leave.  At this point, I do not apologize for offending them.  I imagine long hallways in their Victorian flats with piles and piles of old magazines and newspapers — because one day, maybe, they will need to disturb the silver fish and find that October 1983 issue of The Nation.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art — Little Stamp Collages

I continue to use up my vast horde of old postage stamps.  I’ve spent the week cutting, gluing and making small little collages — each from two or more postage stamps.  Here are some examples.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Ugliest Art I Have Ever Made

For the last few weeks I have been using up my horde of old postage stamps to make an artist’s book.   As a rule, I have avoided using any postage stamps depicting dictators and despots.  A few obscure Warsaw Pact strongmen may have slipped in, but I have done my best.  I had a few hundred stamps featuring Francisco Franco — those were all put aside.  Most of the Spanish Franco stamps were orange.
I began by cutting and then reassembling them into a collage.  And then, something frightening happened when I looked at my work of art from across the room.
There he was emerging from the collage, the hideous, corrupt, demented orange dictator.
This is the ugliest work of art I have ever made.
The Orange Dictator, Mixed media on board, 8"x8"

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 38

After all these colorful stamps it was time to tone it down, listen to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and do some mostly black and white pages.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy Earth Day

Got a little fresh air today on a beautiful spring day and took a thirty-minute walk around the Lower Haight.  In San Francisco we are required to masks now when we are in any store, on transit, in line or anywhere maintaining social distancing is difficult.  Even just walking it seemed nearly everyone was wearing a mask.
I got to see this cool mural by Cleng Sumagaysay and Maria Carmela brightening up an otherwise boarded up storefront.  And, in honor of Earth Day, the sky was an amazing, car exhaust-free blue over Duboce Park.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 36

Even though I don’t sew, quilting is in my DNA.  I have been inspired by quilting patterns and created quilt-themed art for many years.  Today some patchwork quilt postage stamp action.  

Monday, April 20, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 35

Blame it on those leftover Easter chocolates with their purple wrappers.  All sugared up and using some of the purple postage stamps today.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 34

With all of us sheltering in place and staying home, there are many reports of wildlife reclaiming urban turf.  Coyotes live with us in San Francisco, but now packs of them have taken to howling in the middle of the night.  Apocryphal stories abound with dolphins in the canals of Venice and chupacabras rummaging in Albuquerque dumpsters.  With the that in mind, shouldn’t the birds and other critters break free of their postage stamps?

Friday, April 17, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 32

The pair of pages done today are all about postage stamp architecture including using all these Frank Lloyd Wright stamps for a little homage to Falling Water.  

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 31

I have long been fascinated by cutaway images of the earth showing different layers above and below ground.  Today’s version in postage stamps is not the first time I was artistically inspired by those layers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art, Read Art Books – Day 30

Today has been more of an art maintenance day, labelling and varnishing some finished pieces.  Time to take a break and enjoy some of the books in my vast art library (this is just a sample).

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art, Wave the Flag – Day 29

Today some pages of flag waving.  Having sorted through thousands of postage stamps, I can say the frequency of putting the flag on stamps is something uniquely American.  Sure, other countries have their flag on some stamps, but no country uses theirs so often as the United States. Personally, I’ve always been the sort of customer who asks for commemoratives and only buys flag stamps in a pinch.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 28

The piles of stamps on the table are starting to get smaller.  So far, this project has 16 completed pages.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 27

I continue to use all my old postage stamps for this new artist’s book I am working on.  The pages I did for today are some pandemic postage where everyone in every stamp is wearing a mask.  Years from now, this will be a reminder of when I did this project.  The postage stamp to really notice is the one featuring Clara Maass.  The stamp reads “She gave her life.” And she did in 1901 when she volunteered for medical experiments trying to find a cure for Yellow Fever.   

Friday, April 10, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 25

Today was all about mesmerizing green.  I also like the “accidental” patterns that are added to postage stamp collages from the postmarks.  You can see some of my earlier postage stamp colleges here.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art, Make Artists’ Books – Day 24

Today’s pages include this set of Postmark Planets with the help of a large hole punch, old envelopes and vintage space exploration postage stamps.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 23

Making progress – the beginning pages will be a gradation of colors starting and dark blue then to lighter shades blue on the first four pages.  Today pages 5 and 6 transition from blue to aqua to green.  More green coming tomorrow.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 21

Now the gluing starts.  Don’t let the buckling of the pages worry you.  I’ll use an iron and parchment paper to flatten out the dried pages.   For me, an iron is a tool for making art.  I’ve heard something about using it to remove wrinkles in one’s clothes, but I am not too sure if that is true.  

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art, and go to the park (virtually) – Day 20

It's a rainy day in San Francisco but a good day for a virtual visit to Golden Gate Park.  The park's Anniversary Website is full of great content.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art, Check the Stamp Collection – Day 19

Like many artists who send mail art, I like using old, unused, postage stamps.  As long as they have never been used, they are still valid.  With the exception of the more recent Forever Stamps, this means covering envelopes with a collage of postage to reach the 55¢ needed for domestic mail or $1.20 for international.  
I never pay more than face value for the unused stamps, and many dealers will even sell them for less.  You can find them online and at places like the Vintage Paper Fair.  For some reason, I have still held on to my unused postage stamps.  The ones I used to collect going back to the time it was 8¢ to mail a letter.  As part of my sorting and organizing for some postage stamp-based art, I have now set these aside to use for postage.   Some are more than 40 years old, they have not appreciated in value but remain suitable for sending mail art.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 18

Soaking old postage stamps in hot water to get the envelope paper to peel away easily.  I feel like a 12-year-old stamp collecting nerd again — but this time it’s for art

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Stay Home, Make Art – Day 17

I’ll be sorting all these old postage stamps for a while before I can start gluing.  I am sure I will have plenty of time.