“Wish you were here”, (-Ike!) Artist, unknown, but probably the coi guy. . .
Here’s hoping the stars align and Ike’s Place is able to return to 16th; he’s applied for the permits to reopen his sandwich shop in the space that used to house Joseph Schmidt Chocolates, just off the corner with Sanchez Street.
Andy Goldsworthy’s art is candy for the eyes and food for the soul. His work makes real the magic that I like to think lives just under the surface of the earth, almost like there’s been a tear in the veneer of “the Normal” and a little magic has erupted from it, from the invisible to the visible.
So, when I read via Matte Gray’s journals the tantalizing first-hand report of a new Goldsworthy art piece under construction here in San Francisco, I had to jump on the scooter and get over to the Presidio to check the site out for myself, with the tantalizing possibility of meeting Goldsworthy himself in the back of my mind. (Gray did, after all.) That didn’t happen, but I did meet the Bird Lady, which was fantastic! And I found two solid bakeries along the way. Yum.
The ride took me very close to a Russian bakery that I’ve been wanting to try for a while, so I took a slight detour to check it out. The name is Cinderella and it’s located at 436 Balboa St (between 5th Ave & 6th Ave). The space is small and wide, with sweet pastries generally on the left and savory on the right. Standouts include gorgeous danishes, hamentashen and other fruit-topped pastries but the distinguishing feature of this place appears to be the savory, especially the extensive variety of piroshki, hand pies sort of like British pasties. I bought a potato piroshki for later that night.
Then, to my surprise, near the intersection of 7th and California, I saw a bakery with a familiar name, similar to that of my scooter. The place was Kaju and I stopped in to check it out. While the interior is rather nondescript, (uninviting in fact) the owner was friendly and a glance at the food suggested an interesting mix of standard coffee and cookies, scones and the like as well as some uniquely Asian offerings. As a sample, I picked up a triangle of sushi-styled rice stuffed with avocado called onigiri. Wrapped, it was the size of a sandwich and an interesting alternative to the same, easy to throw into my backpack. I also got a house-baked organic chocolate chip cookie. The onigiri has the same mouth feel as the sticky rice used for sushi and was tasty and filling, great fuel for the rest of the afternoon. The cookie was the prize, one of the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve had all year. Nicely chunky, medium sized, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. There was a ’roundness’ to the flavor that I loved, but which couldn’t quite identify, that made every bite irresistible. . . could there be a secret ingredient in there?
But I was losing the afternoon light by now so I didn’t linger. I started scooting around the edges of the Presidio and first, had to stop at the older Goldsworthy there, the Spire. Seeing it is a spiritual experience for me, a temple among the trees.
I’d found enough information about Wood Line to know that I was fairly close, but I had to travel from the Arguelo Gate (site of the Spire) to the Presidio Gate. I could have walked, it’s about half a mile, but I was losing the light fast by now. Back to the scooter! But not before checking out a beautiful, natural grove of majestic (magical) trees right across the street from the Arguelo Gate.
From here, I followed a winding road to the Presidio Gate and found the Wood Line immediately. Or rather, the sign for it. The installation wasn’t apparent until I got off the scooter and went over to the sign and, from that vantage point, saw a gap in the forest dead ahead along a single sight line.
Felled timber creates a lovely, snaking curve on the forest floor, with the trees reaching upward on both sides like the support columns of a gothic cathedral. It’s a spiritual place. It’s ephemeral, too. The forest will reclaim the wood through natural decay in about 25 years or so. . .
And I almost forgot, while I was enjoying the Wood Line, a woman offered to take my picture in front of it on my scooter. We started to chat and I soon realized the woman was more fairy than person. Her questions were punctuated by her quick looks up to the treetops, and the occasional bird call. She explained she’s a birder, and visits and follows the birds of the Presidio daily. Or, they visit and follow her. She talks to them. They talk to her. And as fast as she appeared she vanished; she heard the tweet of a bird and with that, had to go. She danced-skipped-floated away, down the dirt path into the forest, and was gone! The light was nearly gone, too, so with that, I mounted Kaiju and . . . vanished.
Great art inspires. . .
Last year my great friend Deena took me to a favorite spot of hers, a grove in the Presidio National Park where the forest opens to a beautiful panorama of San Francisco, right in front of you. It’s a spiritual spot, and a meditative one. It was easy to see why she brought me here. When it was decided that a monument to should be installed here, only one artist could do a place like this justice, celebrating but not changing it: Andy Goldsworthy.
So, in 2008, he built SPIRE. The amazing thing about this monumental sculpture, made of timber lashed together 90 feet high, is how effortlessly it has become part of the scene. It blends right in. This is a hallmark of Goldsworthy’s work, he incorporates natural materials from the site in which he’s working and from them he creates beautiful, fanciful and ephemeral art. Here, he took trees that would be felled (for the safety of the environment) and then used only that timber to make the sculpture. Part of the art is not only the finished state, but also the manner in which it is, in turn, reclaimed again by Nature. And will the sculpture last a minute? Two? Months? Years? That part is left to Nature, too.
Goldsworthy strives, “to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made.”
There is another Goldsworthy I want to tell you about, much more subtle than Spire. It’s the crack in the foundation of the de Young museum, Faultline, 2005. For this commission he created a zigzag crack in the hardscape outside the museum. The crack is a ‘path’ from the roadside to the entrance of the museum, but also serves as a subtle reminder of the seismic activity latent in the ground underneath, a characteristic of this place in the world. Unless your eyes are directed to it you might not see it but when it’s pointed out, the impact hits you immediately. Check out this great article about that piece, here.
I’ve since become a fan of his. I was so inspired after having seen Spire I created a mini-version in my backyard garden. For mine I reclaimed dead bamboo shoots from my friend’s garden, and the Hancock Spire was born!
Not willing to stop here, I wanted to try another one. I had my opportunity when my neighbor knocked down their retaining wall and threw away the cobblestones. Thus, I gained ‘site-native’ materials for another project, and I built a zigzag ‘Faultline’ of my own by setting the stones directly into the ground, and emanating from my Spire!
My exploration of the public art in Hayes Valley, Ecstasy in Patricia’s Green, (link to post here) reminds me of the monumental and inspiring Spire. While the scale of both projects certainly inspires awe, simply by virtue of their height which forces the eye skyward, they also are partnered in my mind because of the artistic process behind them. While they differ in the sourcing of the materials, Ecstasy made from man-made objects while Spire is made from felled trees, both make from found materials sing. These monuments speak to how repurposing an everday object, even a discarded one, can imbue the art with an added significance and intrinsic beauty.
farmer’s market haul, civic center- has anyone ever seen a melon like this before? Plus a Six Arm Buddha and, the TRUTH mural
Nice haul at the farmer’s market in Civic Center plaza, including end of season stone fruit plums and nectarines, some grapes and a very unusual melon, a hybrid cantaloupe/honeydew. The farmer called it a “shaolin” but I’m really not sure how to spell that. I’ve not seen any before quite like it, more oblong with a beautifully colorful skin of bright orange that fades to green. The flesh is gradient too, from light green to orange, and very sweet. Do any of you know the proper name and spelling??? I’d love to know!
After you get your veggies, check out the public art just steps away. You will be standing in United Nations Plaza ( . . .you did know this is the spot the United Nations was born, right?) and if you lift your eyes upward, you’ll see the TRUTH (2002) mural above Market Street, by RIGO23. Next, walk toward City Hall and you’ll see the Three Head Six Arm Buddha, just beckoning you to come over! Despite the fear some Christian groups have expressed that this could be a harbinger for doomsday, right on our very doorstep, (it’s the birthplace of the U.N. . . hello!) I think the sculpture is lovely and super-cute! Check out my review of this provocative sculpture here.
I discovered this IMMENSE six ton, 30-foot figurative sculpture while taking a scooter ride from Civic Center through Hayes Valley back to the Castro. Created by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, her name is “Ecstasy”. . .
“Her name expresses a sudden change of attitude and belief in hope; a moment of being overcome by passionate optimism” -www.blackrockarts.org
Assembled from discarded pieces of scrap metal, this sculpture has a kind of “recycled” life that transcends the composition of her body.
The statement is powerful. I am always moved when someone makes something new from something old, discarded. It’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own garden, too. All it takes is to allow a change in perspective and context. Imagination. And with that, something gains a new life.
As inspiring as it is, the sculpture is just a temporary resident of the park. ‘Ecstasy’ is on loan from the Black Rock Arts Foundation through December 31, 2010.
Patricia’s Green, the park that serves as the home for Ecstasy, is relatively new. Not far from the Hayes Valley Farm, this stretch of Octavia, too, was renovated by the city in 2005 with the goal of beautification, and fostering pedestrian traffic and community-building. Thus Patricia’s Green was born. The Green includes not only benches and food carts, flower beds and playgrounds but, early on, the community decided it should be a venue for significant public art, as well. Residents and business work together via the neighborhood Hayes Valley Arts Coalition to curate the art that will serve as a beating ‘heart’ for the neighborhood.
Thank goodness everyone involved saw the street and overpass that used to cut through this neighborhood and envisioned something. . .else. A farm. A park. Art. Not unlike the Hayes Valley Farm mere blocks away, Patricia’s Green, and the arts program that serves it, provide another good example of how neglected public space can be repurposed by transforming what was “broken” (and “deadening”) into something that is its opposite: one that is beautiful, that is functional (and function-ing) and one that brings people together. I love that. San Franciscans are good at doing it!
Find out more by following this link:
Joined by stellar lunchmates Ll and A, today I lunched at Sycamore and tried the signature sandwich, the ‘Famous roast beef’, a regional speciality associated with Boston’s North Shore.
It was good.
The experience: My only complaint is that it seemed to take quite a while to get the food but once it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. The sandwich consists of a generous pile of shaved roast beef, dressed in a tangy/spicy red sauce, and housed in a soft bun which has been slathered with mayo. Messy, yes, but eminently satisfying. The roast beef had the feel of being house-carved rather than a standard deli-procured kind; it was quite juicy and not at all dry, or pressed. The sandwich comes with choice of fries or salad. In a very unusual move, I opted for the salad as I’d seen some other interesting salads on the menu and thought this might be a good counter-point to the heaviness of the sandwich. I think this was a good move. The salad is simple- no extra vegetables here, it’s a salad of mixed greens lightly dressed in a bright citrusy vinaigrette, with a nice grinding of black pepper.
The verdict: I will definitely go back again for this sandwich, but the other items on the menu looked pretty compelling, too, and I’d like to try them, with the pulled pork at the top of the list (my friend Ll really liked that one by the way). One also can mix-and-match from an assortment of sliders (blt, fried chicken sandwich, lamb, ground beef). Friend A. tried two, the BLT and the fried chicken, but found them unremarkable. Perhaps best to share these among a group? And then there’s the Pork belly donuts with a Maker’s Mark whiskey glaze! I’m in. . . I think I’ll be going back for those, too! The appetizers and beer list looked great; check out the complete menu here.
The Location: Sycamore has only been around a few months but per the reviews on Yelp, it seems to be building a following and by all accounts, a big improvement over the Cafe Prague, which formerly occupied the space. The interior is simple and can be kind of loud, but it is a bar after all. (Note there is an outdoor patio in the back.) The decor is spare, rather than comfy. Local art hangs on the wall. The street is a gritty one. Still, the neighborhood certainly is colorful; check out the mural on the Sycamore St side of the restaurant, it’s an original Banksy! And ((if it’s daytime)) take a little walk; lots of other fine murals await discovery in the Mission on the streets around you.
(between Clarion Aly & Sycamore St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
Standing 30 feet tall and weighing in at 15-tonnes, “Three Head Six Arm Buddha” by Zhang Huan was installed in Civic Center plaza on May 5th, 2010. The sculpture is a gift from Shanghai, our “Sister City”, and it commemorates the 30th anniversary of the relationship.
The artist derived his inspiration for the piece upon his discovery of Tibetan artifacts for sale at a market in China, remnants of original works of art plundered during the Cultural Revolution.
Quoted from the article in the SF Examiner:
“The sculpture’s theme is based on the story of the three-headed, six-armed prodigy Nezha, according to an artist’s statement.
“Its figure implies surpassing spirit of the challenge to self-limit, the challenge to the human limits,” Zhang wrote. “
For more information about this inspiration, check out this detailed article on SF CITIZEN. As you’ll discover there, “The artist, having been deeply moved by the sight of the desecrated statues, believes that by recreating these fragments on a grand scale, he is able to alleviate the pain caused by their destruction.”
A flower that has bloomed on the Plaza, the sculpture is a joyous and beautiful expression of that motivation! Already drawing a crowd, I have no doubt San Francisco will embrace the Buddha. The scale of the piece matches the scale of the place, yet doesn’t overpower it. And, the space around it is electric! No matter which way you approach it, Three Head Buddha will make eye contact with you, while the tentacular arms invite you in. . . in a good way. The feeling of peace and harmony is palpable here, and the Buddha offers a loving embrace that inspires a smile!
The only good thing about going to the doctor, and I ‘ve had to go once every two weeks since last August (!) is that I can follow this painful little visit with one to Japantown. Jtown is an immersive experience; walking the neighborhood, one truly feels they’ve taken a step outside the US. Japantown is the oldest Japanese community in the United States, and the special relationship between these two nations is memorialized by the Peace Pagoda which is the heart of the neighborhood.
My usual haunts are the japanese grocery, Nijiya Market, and the shopping mall, which includes the manga & stationary store, bakeries and antiques. At Daisu, you’ll find everything for $1.50 and yes, there’s always a find;-) Across the street from the mall you’ll find Super 7, which has a killer selection of fun tshirts and toys, and New People, a complex of Japanese movie theater, gallery space and Japanese pop houseware & clothing. But no trip is complete without a trip to the Soko hardware store, which has a great selection of glazed dishes. Even though I only get one or two bowls and plates at a time, by now I’m stocked up;-)