Tag Archives: sanfrancisco

Five hundred years

1992 was the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in Hispaniola — the beginning of the Spanish conquest.  Salvadoran artist Isaias Mata marked the anniversary with a mural on two exterior walls of St. Peter’s Church  at 24th and Florida streets in San Francisco’s Mission District.

500 Años de Resistencia examines resistance to Spanish colonialism from 1492 to the present era.  The story begins on the 24th Street side of the mural, with a pre-conquest landscape.

Closer examination reveals ancestors buried beneath the soil.

To the left, advancing Spanish armies collide with indigenous Americans.

Beyond, Mayan images evoke pre-Columbian cultures and close-up portraits reveal the suffering caused by the conquest.

On the Florida Street side, portraits of religious leaders commemorate prominent individuals who stood in resistance…

while images of contemporary resistance honor the daily struggle of those who are less prominent.



The Women’s Center was opened in 1979 in San Francisco as the first woman-owned and -operated community center in the US.  It is located between the Mission and Castro neighborhoods on 18th near Guerrero St.  In 1994, seven women artists collaborated to paint MaestraPeace, an enormous mural that covers two sides of the building.

Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Pérez spent more than 18 months planning the mural in collaboration with community groups.  The resulting piece celebrates women’s history and wisdom around the world.

Rigoberta Menchú presides over the northern side of the mural.

On the corners, profiles represent women in different parts of the world.

Smaller images depict women dancing, working, celebrating, and just living.

Some images are famous historical figures or activists.    Like Audre Lorde on the lower left…

or Jocelyn Elders in her scrubs.

On the western side of the mural, a pregnant goddess represents the generations of women yet to come.

Dr. Seuss meets the Mission

I was blown away by this piece at Lexington and 18th in San Francisco’s Mission.

Andrew Schoultz and Aaron Noble created Generator in 2002-2003.  It depicts an incredibly detailed, interconnected scene of buildings and birds and machines.

It seems more like a drawing than a mural, actually.  I love the Dr. Seuss-ian style with its curving, elaborate, lopsided buildings and the motion and humor of the birds and machines.

It also includes little signs with references to the neighborhood.

I read an article interpreting Generator as a statement about gentrification in the Mission.  That may be true.  Or not.  I like not knowing.


I get a kick out of things that are really big — like those giant Hershey’s kisses or the 6-foot toothbrush that Whoopie Goldberg wielded in Jumpin’ Jack Flash.   I think that’s one reason I like murals — their scale.  But there are big murals, and then there are BIG murals.  Check these out from my recent trips to San Francisco.

One Tree was painted by Rigo in 1996  at 10th and Bryant next to a freeway ramp in the South of Market area of San Francisco.  The San Francisco Bay Guardian named it the Best Public Art Project of the Year that year.

Rigo also painted Truth, a mural dedicated to Robert King Wilkerson.  Wilkerson was a Black Panther who was exonerated in 2001 after being convicted of murder and held in solitary confinement for 29 years.  Truth was painted at 7th and Market in the Civic Center area in 2002.

Not far away, at Golden Gate and Jones in the Tenderloin, I came across these oversized faces…

and this guy out for a stroll.

I don’t know who painted these pieces, but I love the whimsical pop art/comic book styles.

My favorite extra-large mural is another from Rigo — Birds/Cars (1997)  at 16th and Bryant in the Mission.  Very fun.

San Fran Snapshot

The Mission District in San Francisco explodes with murals.  It is a wild mix of traditional Chicano imagery, contemporary spraycan styles and pieces painted by kids and other community members.   And the scale is small — garages, fences, low buildings.  Balmy Alley is the go-to  mural destination, but you can find murals on all kinds of streets and alleys in the Mission and beyond.  Here’s a snapshot — enjoy!

The McDonald’s (yes, McDonald’s!) at 24th and Mission:

Lilac alley:

24th and Alabama:

Vamos Gigantes (Let’s Go, Giants) at 19th and San Carlos:

24th and Treat:

And 24th and Harrison:

More to come!


I got back late last night (well, early this morning) from the Bay Area where I spent quite a bit of time mural hunting.  I saw a lot of interesting murals in a lot of interesting styles.  A lot of (hopefully) interesting posts will be coming soon!

I ran across a truly amazing piece at 24th and Hampshire in the Mission that I can’t wait to share:

It looked just like papel picado and was flaking off  the wall…so much that I didn’t want to touch it and risk more damage.  Was it really paper?  Or somehow painted to look that way?

It turns out that the mural is, in fact, made of paper and wheat paste and was adhered to the wall as a single large piece.  It appeared one night in 2008, the work of a Brooklyn street artist who calls herself Swoon.  At the center is a young woman who is surrounded by branches, skulls and other intricate papel picado patterns.

The piece is thought to memorialize a teenage girl — one of the hundreds of young women killed in a series of grisly, unsolved murders in Juárez, Mexico (murders that are still going on and are still unsolved).

The mural has been left unprotected, so it is weathering over time…disappearing just like the young women of Juarez.