Quote of the Day

Thursday, October 29, 2009

muni's great for people watching

On my commute home I notice an old man, head-to-toe cowboy in boots, worn jeans, plaid shirt and hat. You get the feeling, looking at him, that he's been wearing the exact same outfit for years and years, as if upon opening his closet you'd find a neat row of plaid shirts hovering over pairs of boots, unchanged since the 1950's. He looks like he'd be more at home on the wide-open country of a Montana ranch than a packed muni train full of hipsters and people in business clothes, and it makes me wonder whether he is a stranger to the city or in fact a long-time local, refusing to change his manner of dress after decades of surrounding change; an aesthetic rebel to societal averages. It would seem he's not accustomed to the underground; he hovers as close to the door as possible, seemingly anxious to be released, one slightly shaking hand ignoring the pole altogether and instead tentatively reaching out to it's reflection in the window for support. Yet stop after stop he stays put, dodging the swarm of people boarding the train during rush hour. Or maybe he's not unused to muni at all, maybe he's just claustrophobic, or in a hurry. Either way, I salute you, Cowboy, muni can be a scary enough place even after years of riding it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

art & other cheap thrills

This is what I love about San Francisco: That you can come home on a Sunday evening to find a party complete with full bluegrass band jamming on the sidewalk directly in front of your apartment. And so what had promised to be a pretty boring, run-of-the-mill Sunday night instead turns into sitting on my front porch chilling with some adorable floppy-eared pups, drinking my neighbor's homemade 10-year-old Cabernet and listening to some lively folk/bluegrass/Americana music. And learning from a new acquaintance about Sketch Tuesdays at 111 Minna Gallery. I'm still constantly amazed at how much goes on in this city, all the art and music and cultural events, that I'm still learning of new things all the time, even after over 5 years of living here.

As luck would have it the next Sketch Tuesday happened to be occuring this very week, and so yesterday evening I trekked down to Minna Street after work to see for myself. As promised the gallery hosted rows of artists, hard at work creating a diverse mix of artwork. I wish I'd brought my camera because it's not often you get to really see artists in the process and it was amazing to see so much creativity flowing around the room. When an artist completes a piece they then pin it on the designated wall along with the price (ranging this time from $1 for some small sketches to $200 for a metallic-encrusted painting). Then begins what I see as sort of a treasure hunt: if you find something you like you are supposed to go find the artist where they are sitting somewhere around the room and buy it from them.

I of course became
immediately infatuated with a series of tiny watercolors, but could not find the artist anywhere. It seems that while there is a list of artists who are supposed to attend, as well as table placard labeling their respective spaces, it is not uncommon for artists to come and spontaneously set up in side booths along the venue, which can make it a serious challenge to find the creator of your desired piece. But eventually I did end up walking away with these two by Lacey Bryant, for $5 each:

Yup, $10 total, that's less than the price of a salad at Mixt Greens. The artist was really sweet too, she even offered to hold onto the paintings for me while I ran to get my wallet that I'd left at the office.

And this is another thing I love about this city: that there are so many places that strive to really make art accessible. As an art history major, one of the things I found discouraging about the art world and
especially galleries was the stuffiness and elitist attitude you often find there. Traditionally there is a preconception that collecting is for the wealthy, that fine art is for affluent eyes only, and indeed if I walked into many of the galleries around Union Square, a 20-something in jeans and leather jacket, I would not be likely to get much attention from the staff. After all, they are in the business of selling art, and I suppose I do not look very likely to purchase a $10,000 piece.

But San Francisco is a young, generally egalitarian-minded city, and in this vain there have sprung up over the years a wealth of galleries and non-profits and events that help bring art to a new audience: to the younger generation, to students and to the generally pocket-book challenged. At Hang Art in downtown San Fransico you can rent artwork for 3 month periods, on a sliding scale depending on the piece's purchase price. Around the corner, ArtworkSF offers a
rent-to-own program. At the the nonprofit Luggage Store in the mission, you can see exhibits and performing art events that work "to amplify the voices of the region’s diverse artists and residents, to promote inclusion and respect, to reduce inter-group tensions and to work towards dispelling the stereotypes and fears that continue to separate us." In the lower haight you can visually peruse paintings on the walls of Edo Salon while you get your hair cut. An open studio event I attended a few weeks ago at a friend's warehouse studio boasted several floors of some wonderful and widely diverse artwork. And pretty much everywhere you look there are beautiful, colorful murals (and other street art) that everyone can enjoy, that by their very nature are created for and belong to the public.

And there are so many, many more places like this, galleries and co-ops and studios, places that say, "hey, art isn't just for rich old people to look at and own." Venues that want to provide a place where no matter your age or attire or yearly income you can feel comfortable and not self-conscious or out-of-place looking at art, and more than that, actually be able to bring art home and enjoy it where you live. Places that want to bring artists and art-lovers together in a collaborative, win-win situation, instead of keeping art on an ivory pedestal and maintaining a cold sense of removal between the art, it's creator and the public.

So I guess I am now $10 poorer and a officially a "collector". While I was interning at one of the 49 Geary galleries, an art consultant there would frequently tell me, "you know, it's never too early to start your collection, you should start now!" I was always greatly amused by this and secretly wondered if he was hoping to sell me my first piece(probably). I don't think it really registered to him that he was speaking to a college student living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, working for free at a gallery whose least expensive pieces probably run well into the upper hundreds, if not thousands. The truth is I may never be able to afford one of the Ray Turner landscapes I lust after, or much of the other art I would love to own.

So I must say thank goodness for Sketch Tuesdays, where you can buy an original piece of art directly from the artist (with no commission taken out for an agent or gallery) for less than the price of a meal out, and if you get there soon enough perhaps even witness its creation, which is not something many collectors of fancy-schmacy high-priced art can say. Sure, they may have been made in 20 minutes and they may be on little scraps of sketchbook paper or wood (I even saw a drawing on a postage sticker) instead of good quality canvas, but they are unique works of art that you can fall in love with and take home and enjoy for years to come. And the best part is they didn't cost you an entire month's pay.

How much do I love that I live in a place where I can experience a book fair, a concert and glorious sunshiny afternoon in a beautiful park all in the same day, all for free; a place where my middle-aged neighbors throw a hoppin' party on a Sunday night and where I can buy a painting for $5 while drinking on Tuesday? Lots.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

God's army is gathering... and they're not afraid to use cupcakes

That's right: cupcakes. Those delicious little frosting-covered morsels of heaven that everyone loves. They're cute. They're delectable. They're "in". And it seems that the people who would like to dictate what God wants you to do with your body are now attempting to do so by scrawling it in blood red frosting all over the sugary treats and then distributing them to the unsuspecting impressionable masses of America.

I love cupcakes. Yes, they taste great. Sure, they're fun to eat. But I think that maybe I love cupcakes even more for the idea of them than for the eating itself. I love baking them and decorating them and sharing them with friends. I love the little bit of fun and joy they spread. I love the endless possibilities and combinations they present and how they're like little edible pieces of art, all standing together in solidarity, and yet each one unique unto itself. Just as society should be.

And yet, instead of using cupcakes to bring people together, one group of Christians has been attempting to use them to divide and condemn. I was riding the N home the other night when a conversation behind me broke through my mild end-of-the-work-day space out and perked up my ears. It was a man relaying to his friend an article he had read on SFGate about "Cupcakes for Life", a campaign started by a group of anti-abortion supporters who have been using innocent unsuspecting cupcakes to spread their "pro-life" message across the nation. Of course I had to google this when I got home and see for myself. I can't sum up the whole sad, bizarre story better than Violet Blue does in her column (although I will certainly put my 2 cents in).

It would really be hilarious if it weren't so very creepy and disturbing. Ok, I do still find it quite amusing, in a ridiculous sort of way. But more so disturbing. As a lover of cupcakes, as a believer in CHOICE and Roe v. Wade and a feminist (I don't really like to use that term because I feel it can be quite divisive, but I think I am one in the purest sense of the word).... as a supporter of reproductive rights, not to mention the rights of children and young adults to think for themselves and not be the unwitting messengers of hatred and judgment: I, for one, am truly offended.

Let me say this: the cupcake does not discriminate. It does not judge. It flirts, it beckons: "Come, eat me. Don't worry about your waistline or your sugar intake or what people might think. Do what you want for once. Have fun, live a little!" Cupcakes, my friend, are a force for Good and not Evil. But unfortunately it would seem that the "Cupcakes for Life" people would seek to pervert the uplifting nature of the cupcake with their disturbingly misguided mission. It seems to me that there is just something inherently sneaky and wrong about using sweets in an attempt to brainwash children to your way of thinking. Honestly, you have to wonder what's next. Apple Pies for Abstinence? Anti-Stem Cell Research Sugar Cookies? Lollipops Against the Legalization of Gay Marriage??

It makes me very angry when human beings do terrible things in the name of God and religion, when they treat the bible as if it were a free pass to do pretty much whatever their ignorance and hatred sees fit. It saddens me and very much raises my indignation when people appropriate things that are innately good and twist them to suit their own distorted purposes. Like using cupcakes to spread the message against abortion, choice and women's rights. Much as religious folk have been using Jesus's name to spread messages of hate and prejudice for centuries.

Now come on, let's all face it: Jesus was a hippie. He was a lover, not a fighter. I mean, he only ever got mad, what... once? And all he did about it was a have a little fit over the blatant greed and materialism of the Church and knock a few tables over. Come to think of it, it seems to me that a few modern day tables could stand to be turned over... but then forget about Jesus, you'd probably be excommunicated and fined an exorbitant amount. But I digress... the point is that I think Jesus would have LOVED cupcakes, I think he would have... no... wait, that's not my point.

I guess my point is that religious people, ALL people (but especially religious people), need to learn to live and let live. It never ceases to amaze me that someone can literally live by the word of the bible and know by heart the Book of Genesis in which God bestows humanity with the gift of free will, and yet apparently not believe in people actually practicing free will. You know, my mom just happens to be quite thoroughly Catholic, and, I loathe to say, against abortion as a rule (I know, how did I end up this way? Was I adopted?? Tune in to future segments to find out!). But I am proud and infinitely relieved to say that I would never come home to find her cheerfully piping "Abortion Kills" onto freshly baked treats.

I mean really, how appetizing is a cupcake proclaiming "I Heart Babies" or "God Hates Murder" anyway? Especially when it's followed by this lovely suggestion taken directly from cupcakesforlife.com (you really can't make this stuff up): "Hand them the cupcakes and ask people if they would like to see what an abortion looks like. If they say yes show them a picture of an aborted baby."


...Oh... hi again. I'm sorry, I think I was rendered speechless there for a few minutes. I guess I must just be terribly squeamish because apparently for the people behind Cupcakes For Life nothing washes down pastry like the sight of a bloody fetus. Although to be honest, considering what I know about the attention span and eating habits of most children and adolescents (not to mention their general attitude towards any sort of extracurricular reading), there's a very good chance the majority of those cupcakes and their inspiring messages are decomposing at the bottom of a gut before you can even say "bloody fetus". What a shame. But never fear, I hear there's a group of stalwart Christians out there fighting to legalize childhood lobotomies. After all, how else are we supposed to raise our youth right in this day and age?? Especially when baked goods fail us.

**Speaking of inappropriately appropriating things, the lovely cupcake art seen above is by Natalie Dee of nataliedee.com (thanks Mr. President), who I think I am now slightly obsessed with. See you later, Space Cowboy(Cupcake).

EDIT: Upon closer inspection I noticed that under the "how to make cupcakes" page there is a picture featuring a variety of boxed cupcake mixes and canned frosting. CUPCAKE FAIL. If you really loved unborn fetuses you'd bake from scratch.