Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Museum In The Streets

Last week was such a great week! First of all, another one of my photos found a home with a couple who will be celebrating their wedding anniversary in Georgia.  And, I got a job in my field of practice. Yes, this last one does not necessarily relate to my photography, but having a job will actually help me continue to pursue my photography around the world, which is what World Photos by Paola is all about!

On Monday last week I received a message from a man (let’s call him Don) asking me about the story behind one of my photos. The photo was of a tree-lined path called Lovers’ Lane in the San Francisco Presidio. I told Don what I knew about Lovers’ Lane, which is that the path used to be used by soldiers who lived in the Presidio to walk towards the city to go visit their loved ones. Actually, a very fitting story behind a photo destined to celebrate love.

Don and I went back and forth over email trying to figure out what would be the best size to print the photo in, and what would be good ways to frame it. He wanted to frame the photo himself and was hungry for ideas on how to do it. I told him about places to look for good frames online, and also told him to stop by his local Goodwill store, as that is where I tend to find the most fun, most beautiful frames I have ever found. In fact, I have framed most of my art at home using Goodwill-bought frames. I also cut my own matting, which allows for lots of customization, something I absolutely love!

And just like that, after a full day of exchanging emails, I sold another photo. Lovers’ Lane will be beautifully displayed, I’m sure, at Don’s house as a 16x20 anniversary-present work of art!
One of the things that I loved the most about this sale was Don’s enthusiasm about creating something himself. We are all artists at heart. Art is not necessarily just expressed in terms of painting, drawings, sculptures, etc. Art does not have to be displayed in a museum in order to be called art. And there is no need to be a “professional” artist in order to create art.  Informal art is what brings me to this week’s blog post: Street Art.

The reason why I’ve been thinking about street art recently is that I will be painting a type of mural for the Market/Deli on the ground floor of my building.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by the store and offered the owner, Tony, to touch up the store signs he had on the outside of the store. Apparently, my offer was perfectly well timed with the landlord having just stopped by the store to ask Tony to change the outside signs and to create a new image for the space that used to advertise a particular brand of milk.

So, my offer to touch up some signs turned into a project to design new small signs and to come up with something for the bigger space. Because I had never created a mural in my life, this posed a huge challenge, but I’m not one to shy away from challenges, especially not those of artistic nature!

Coincidentally, I have always wanted to work on a mural, or to be a part of team working on a mural. I used to think about creating a program back in the Twin Cities where youth who had been caught doing graffiti would be enlisted to beautify alleys or walls around the city. After all, they had already shown artistic skills related to wall painting, right? A similar program exists here in San Francisco, Precita Eyes Murals, but I haven’t had the chance to see if they were in need of additional volunteers.

After spending weeks thinking about what to do and what to draw, and after a failed attempt at a design, I finally came up with a good idea and was able to put it in paper to show the storeowner what I had in mind. He and his wife were very pleased with the design I showed them and, last Friday, Tony and I went to a paint store to get some supplies. After a weekend of work, I finally finished the small signs and now I am ready to start the bigger one.

This store mural has given me the opportunity to do something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It will also allow me to become a lasting part of my city by contributing to its beautification, which I’m thrilled about! I mean, this mural might be here longer than me! That is such an exciting idea!

Street art is universal. Most everywhere I’ve traveled to, I have seen some sort of street art, mostly in the form of murals, or graffiti art. Sometimes this art has the purpose of emulating a particular person, but other times the artist is simply trying to express him/herself and the final result is the creation of beauty, beauty that will be enjoyed by everyone without having to pay for it.

Other times, you see art that has been created with the sole purpose of selling something, as advertising. I still like this kind of art as it still adds color to our often dull streets.

One of the countries that, in my experience, showcased the most street art was Portugal, especially Porto, where one of the metro stations (Lapa Station) is included in a well-known travel guide as a must see due to “its massive, ubiquitous and spectacular” graffiti.

Everywhere in Lisbon and Porto, you can find street art.  In fact, even train cars and cable cars have been decorated by the creativity of those artists who seem to find the streets and its components to be the best canvas.

Here in San Francisco there is a plenty of street art as well. Graffiti doesn’t seem to be as common, which might be due to the association of graffiti with vandalism and gang activities, but who knows? What I do know is that San Francisco is full of street art. Whether it is some fish painted on the sidewalk, or colorful murals tucked in alleys, this city is full of color and creativity everywhere.

The abundance of art had actually inspired my creativity as well. Art inspires more art, right?

Whatever it is, I know that I love the fact that everywhere I look, there is art, there is color, and there is self-expression.  All of which, I believe, contribute to a better and more peaceful world. If we could all find a way to express ourselves the way street artists do, what would our world be like? Sometimes it feels like we are so bound by rules and restrictions, that we are not able to be ourselves. I’m glad that all around the world, there are people going out on a limb to create, share and express themselves.

Enjoy this week’s photos on street art. For more fun photos from around the world, visit my Etsy store at:

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