Bay Area Mural Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1930 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Bay Area Mural

Mona Caron's the Market Street Railway Mural

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The art of mural painting is one of the oldest and most primal art forms known to humans. Since the earliest days of cave painting, artists and scribes have found a particular attraction to this medium. The wall provides an open space that can be filled with beauty and information. Some of the greatest artists recognized today utilized the mural medium, such as Picasso and Michaelangelo. These artists also created public art, or art that is displayed in a public place for the free enjoyment of the people. Artists have an instinctual urge to express their tribal, or cultural, identity through their work, and this can be seen in ancient cave paintings as well as modern wall paintings. The murals of San Francisco are an expression of the culture and history of America. One Bay Area muralist, Mona Caron, brings a particular flair to the multicultural representation of the art of being Californian. A prolific muralist and illustrator, Caron beautifies the city with public works of art in her signature representational style. The Market Street Railway Mural is a particularly historical and multicultural piece, portraying not just one perspective on Market Street, but many historical samples of life in San Francisco. "This mural has won a 2004 San Francisco Beautification Award from San Francisco Beautiful. Additionally, it was awarded a Certificate of Honor by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, as well as a California Legislature Assembly Certificate of Recognition. It also received an SF Bay Guardian's 2004 'Best of the Bay' award." (Caron, 2004) This remarkable piece is technically brilliant, historically rich, an expression of the artist herself, and inspiration to the community.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Bay Area Mural Assignment

Caron is a talented artist, and her technical skill is obvious when observing this mural, or any of her other works. The Market Street Railway Mural is a warped-perspective from high above the street, giving a panoramic and wide-spanning feel to the work. The work is actually served up in slices, so to speak. The painting is sectioned off by alternating color schemes that correspond to different time periods in San Francisco. The color choices are more than adequate to make the distinction between sections, they are also symbolistic of those time periods themselves. The old-fashioned sepias and black-and-whites are nostalgic of the "old days." The present eras are in more realistic color tones, while the future is presented in a crisp, clean scheme. "Taken in from a distance, the luscious colors and perfect perspective of the piece are a visual magnet. Moving a few steps closer reveals detailed historical insight and anecdotal imagery, dense and vivid enough to evoke a swooning Baghdad by the Bay reverie." (Zwickel 2004) the scenes presented are far from abstract, yet the subtle surrealistic nature of the piece draws in the observer, bringing it to life.

Caron's work is not simply an expression of colors and forms. A history of the Bay Area community, lifestyle, and experiences are presented in an exciting way. " Caron's historical research for the project has been exhaustive." (Bernstein 2004) the first slice of the mural presents an image of the Municipal Railway and Whitefront Cars that once ran through downtown San Francisco. Important historical buildings such as the Humbolt State Bank and the Call Newspaper buildings are present in this first panel. The second panel presents the summer of 1934, in a red scheme to symbolize the "Bloody Thursday" riot. Longshoremen and sailors rioted in the streets in this section; two of the rioters were killed, so this mural is a memorial to those lost lives. The labor riots of the thirties flow into the next section. The third section, in green, presents the Labor Day parade which took place in the Bay area for two decades. The 1940's are presented in black and white, perhaps a nod to the black and white films which were created during this era and remain highly influential on popular culture today. In this section, there are not only streetcars, but also cars and busses. Bright purple dons the section nodding to the rise of the gay pride movement in San Francisco, and one of the early gay pride parades is presented. Next, bicyclists take to the streets, backed by the Grant Building where she conducted much of her research, and highlighted by a number of "subtle clues to the tensions of politics and culture in our day." (Pomerantz 2004) One example is the delivery truck marked "Globalisation." The seventh panel is current, littered with anti-war protesters, representing the peace movement in San Francisco, and how it connects to the demonstrations held worldwide. Many elements in the work connect the past to the present, such as the Railway car that travels across the entire mural. "Her goal is to show a range of ways that the roadway has been and can be used for both transportation and social activities. It shows how Market gradually became more car-friendly, and how it can be redesigned based on the 'Copenhagen Model,' where separate and busy bikeways co-exist alongside public transportation, walkways, and alternative-energy vehicles." (Bernstein 2004) the final panel shows the hope for the clean future. This mural is recognized as an important contribution to the history of the city. "By documenting the antiwar march with such loving detail, Mona becomes a historian, a newsmaker...She's rendering an event that the powers that be would prefer disappear into an important episode in San Francisco history, worthy of remembering and celebrating." (Zwickel 2004)

The creation of this piece reveals a lot about the San Francisco community, history, and culture. At the same time, it reveals a great deal about the artist herself and how she fits into that culture. Caron's personal philosophy that is applied to the mural and to her city is that "It's been used in very different ways before, and it can be very different again." (Bernstein 2004) Caron is originally from Locarno, Switzerland, born to artistically inclined and involved parents. She moves to San Francisco in 1992, and found her place quickly in the artistic empowerment movements, such as Critical Mass and Burning Man. She has also been active in the antiwar movement and demonstrations. Caron is deeply connected to the scenes on the wall, "A lot of it is a personal diary... I didn't really plan it that way, but I do know a lot of people that were there." (Zwickel 2004) the mural gives us insight into the world from the artist's eyes, and the observer becomes a part of Caron's close social network.

Finally, Caron's mural is an inspiration to the city, making an impact on those who view it. There are obviously political and social messages embedded in the painting, both on the surface and far below it. The choices for the scenes, and the way in which those scenes interact with one another, are purposeful, not random. Yet this piece never comes across as a lecture, as the artist successfully avoided forcing dogma down anyone's throat. "There is important meaning in the mural, and that she does want people to find it. 'I just want it to be discussion-provoking,'...The mural is certainly eye-catching, both because it is beautiful and because it represents a dream that many residents share for the city." (Bernstein 2004) Caron becomes a leader, a rolemodel, and a rebel all at once. Nonprofit organizations that serve to better the San Francisco community as a whole are prominently and proudly featured in the mural. One of Caron's friends is portrayed walking out of the Grant Building, which is home to Shaping San Francisco, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Grant Building Tenants Association, and other nonprofit, community-strengthening organizations which are a part of the hope for the future of the city. Many artists portray community activists in a positive light and as role models. However, something makes Carson's work different, and more effective. "There's a million little figures right now... And they're doing their stuff, but they're caught in the moment, not put up on pedestals. I want to show people that do important actions, almost as part of their daily lives, because they are who they are." (Zwickel 2004) the actions done for the benefit of the community are humanized, brought back to a personal, realistic level. It shows how good deeds and positive actions should not only be something that is done within the community, but something that is intrinsic to the culture itself. Infusing the politics, culture, and community of the city with this kind of attitude that is drawn from her work is perhaps what will lead to the final section of the mural, the far-right panel, in clean clear tones. A public orchard, free coffee, open source technology, rooftop playgrounds, earth-friendly transportation, wide sidewalks for pedestrians, and lots of trees, all in the heart of urban San Francisco. The artist has not presented an unobtainable future, removed or distant from our own. This future is highly plausible… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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