Virginia Tieman

Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Gain Insight on the Coit Tower Murals

In Artist, Public, Purpose on November 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm

A sign that is positioned in Coit Tower for all to see reads:

“In January 2008, Coit Memorial Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the building is noted for its Art Deco design, the chief reason it received this national honor was for the twenty-seven murals that grace the rotunda and inner stairwell of the structure.

When Coit Tower was completed in 1933, its interior consisted of over 3,000 square feet of blank wall space. But in early 1934, the building became the pilot project of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), an offshoot of the Civil Works Administration, one of the “alphabet soup” of federal agencies that put people to work during the Depression. One of the goals of the PWAP was “…to support porfessional artists and thereby create quality art.” A committee headed by Dr. Walter Heil, director of the de Young Museum, selected the common theme, color palette, and sizing of the murals.

Many of the most important Bay Area artists of the time were hired to create the artwork. The twenty-six artists worked together to support the unified theme of Aspects of Life in California, 1934, depicting scenes of agriculture, education, urban and rural life, and New Deal idealism. Inspired by the 1920s public art movement in Mexico, the decision to use the medium of fresco for the murals was linked to artists such as Diego Rivera, with whom several of the Coit Tower muralists had worked. In fresco, the artist paints directly onto a wet plaster surface; as the colors dry, the picture becomes part of the wall and any changes must be chipped out. The muralists earned an average of $31.22 per week, completing the project in six months’ time.

In the 1930s, the American art scene was divided into two distinct schools: Regionalism, which glorified rural America, and Social Realism, which offered a more critical and urban view of American society. This political and idealistic split within American art is clearly represented in the body of work inside Coit Tower.

Before the Tower opened to the public, during the politically charged atmosphere of the 1934 Maritime Strike, several murals were negatively described in the press as depicting Communist symbols. Eventually one of the controversial pieces was removed, and the building finally opened to the public in October 1934.

With some murals restored in 1960 and others in 1975, the Coit Tower murals remain a definitive representation of the art of the Great Depression.”

Maria Conlon, in the video below, speaks about various murals in Coit Tower — highlighting hidden images that can’t be seen without previous knowledge.

As a journalist and someone who enjoys learning the history behind cultures, I suggest that everyone should go on a Coit Tower mural tour and be enriched by the lessons and history that is packed so nicely into the building.

Below are photos and details of the murals in Coit Tower.

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Also, here is a list of the artists and murals that make up the walls of Coit Tower. (Some are mural titles while others are descriptions of which pieces they painted)

1. Ray Boynton; Animal force and Machine force.

2. John Langley Howard; California Industrial Scence

3. William Hesthal; Railroad and Shipping

4. Clifford Wight; Surveyor and Ironworker

5. Ralph Stackpole; Industries of California

6. Suzanne Scheuer; Newsgathering

7. Bernard B. Zakheim; Library

8. Malette Dean; Stockbroker and Scientist-Inventor

9. Victor Arnautoff; City Life

10. George Harris; Banking and Law

11. Frede Vidar; Department Store

12. Clifford Wight; Farmer and Cowboy

13. Maxine Albro; California

14. Ray Bernard; Meat Industry

15. Gordon Langdon; California Agriculture Industry

16. Otis Oldfield; SF Bay, East

17. Jose Moya; SF Bay, North

18. Rinaldo Cuneo; Bay Area Hills

19. Otis Oldfield; Seabirds and Bay Area Map

20. Fred Olmstead Jr.; Power

21. Lucien Labaudt; Powell St.

22. Parker Hall; Collegiate Sports

23. Edward Terada; Sports

24. Ralph Chesse; Children at Play

25. Edith Hamlin; Hunting in California

26. Ben F. Cunningham; Outdoor Life

27. Jane Berlandina; Home Life


A little bit about the artist behind the mural in Clarion Alley

In Artist on November 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

Mary Joy Scott shares a bit about her past and how she started tatooing for Ed Hardy at Tattoo City. For more about her mural background click here.

Mary Joy Scott posing at Tattoo City.

Mary Joy Scott’s untitled mural comes to life in Clarion Alley

In Artist on November 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Before her mural on Clarion Alley, Scott competed a piece on 18th and Alabama. This piece was an image from World War II. It depicted a solider and a woman walking with a bicycle. The solider has a white flag in his hand.  Scott enjoys painting political murals and after this particular mural she started experimenting with art with subjects she liked that weren’t so political.

Due to her being active in the art community, she was later given a wall to paint in Clarion Alley. She worked on this large space initially with Tauba Auerbach and Claudine Gossett. There were three main subjects and they painted girls on bicycles doing tricks together. Scott describes the process to have been very “meticulous.”

However, as avid artists know about Clarion Alley, the mural was taken down because it was not “running.” As Scott says, things run for a while in Clarion Alley and if they aren’t popular or get defaced then they are replaced. The bicycle mural had a lot of open space and, as a result, was going to be replaced by a new mural.

They offered Scott the space again, but it was too large for her to do by herself. By then Tauba Auerbach had moved back to New York and Claudine Gossett was busy, so Scott took a third of the size given to her to paint.

She painted over Auerbach’s section of it and an original face from that mural can be seen in the newly untitled mural Scott completed in 2006.

Learn more about this untitled piece by listening to the audio below.



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On a side note:

Mary Joy Scott’s mural she talks about in the beginning of the audio that was by the Gold Coast Grill in San Francisco State’s Cesar Chavez Student center featured: Maxine Hong Kingston, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, and Audre Lorde. Her decision around these women in history stemmed from the people that she admired and who were also political activists and artists — not to mention whom also dealt with women issues.

A Few Gems in the Mission

In Public on November 1, 2011 at 9:53 am

As I start gearing up for the much anticipated photo story on Balmy Alley’s murals, I thought it would be a nice little treat to get a sense of some of the Mission District’s vibe and also get a quick glimpse of some murals that make up this prominent alley. Enjoy!


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