When we started this blog it seemed as though there was a surplus of compelling new characters to discover with engaging narratives and a bevy of largely undiscovered artistic output to document and highlight. Each week brought the promise of another clue in the ever evolving portrait of who these artists were and what made their story exceptional.
Whether largely due to the challenges of keeping pace with a busy schedule and my own subsequent lack of attention, or the ever-rising cost of living and continual gentrification of San Francisco neighborhoods pushing those living on the fringes further out, as of late there has been a shortage of eccentric artists to follow and document. However, that may all about to change. If today’s findings are any indication, there’s a story being written in white chalk and cherry blossoms that needs to be heard.
On the edge of the Bay in one of San Francisco’s oldest industrial neighborhoods one man is leaving his mark on the sidewalks of a city often too busy to take notice. However, this morning after parking my father’s car where Tennessee Street dead end’s at 22nd, one block removed from a large PG&E power plant and speckled with some of the oldest Victorian dwellings to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire, I noticed from a distance what appeared to be a trail of detailed writing in chalk. Each block of text following the other in a deliberate succession. At first I anticipated reading the political slogans of some marginalized “artist” bemoaning the state of modern urban living and the obvious political and social injustices imposed on it’s citizenry. However when I started reading the sometimes legible messages, I realized it was something far more unique and engaging. Spread along this two block corridor on the edge of the city were a glimpse into the erratic mind of a man and his curious obsessions.
Realizing I was on to something, I ventured into a small, nearby satellite gourmet coffee shop hoping someone inside might have some information on the artist behind this work. After ordering a cup of slow-drip joe, I asked the cute counter girl with large over-sized 1970s glasses and short-cropped sandy curls if she knew anything about the person leaving the writings. Immediately intrigued, she told me about a pair of men with shopping carts, who appeared on in the early morning hours of recycling day, extracting bottles and cans from the large blue bins left on the curb for the city to collect. In between stops, one of the men has been taking time to transcribe his ramblings on the sidewalks, using not only white school-yard chalk, but at times cherry blossom branches and other organic matter. I told her how fascinated I am with this kind of unfiltered expression, especially something an impermanent as chalk and how I like to document this kind of art. She thought it was cool as well and we introduced ourselves. I’m glad she digs it too. I’m hoping this is one of those stories that doesn’t end here and next week there will be a new batch of writing. Maybe not. But either way, I’ll have something to talk with her about next time I need my morning caffeine fix. Until the next chapter, enjoy looking down.