Virginia Tieman

Archive for the ‘Public’ Category

Let your eyes do the shopping for you

In Map, Public on December 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Shopping for groceries, we all have done it and we all know it can be one of the most mundane tasks out there. You go into the store and look around and get lost if it isn’t the local location you usually walk into. Everything seems to be in an obscure spot placed next to an item that doesn’t belong in that section — at least not logically.

Then, you may wander into a Trader Joe’s. Notice anything different about it? The free samples or the smiling employees in their Hawaiian shirts? Or, the difference could just be the way this store implements the use of paint on the walls. For me, this “mini murals” add spunk and a nice visual to make shopping for food not such a tedious task. Also, it provides a clear path to what may be in that section. Look around a Trader Joe’s and take in the design; it’ll spruce up your life.

I have added a map of some Trader Joe’s locations in San Francisco and provided photos of the mural to the entrance of the Trader Joe’s by the Stonestown mall right next to SF State. This mural has the campus in it, Lake Merced, and Stern Grove.

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Is Graffiti Art or Trash. Let’s take a Poll.

In Public on December 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I want to hear from the viewers. Do you believe graffiti is art or destruction to a wall? Don’t be afraid to share your opinion and leave a comment.

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Graffiti: Art or Trash?

In Public, Purpose on December 5, 2011 at 8:26 am

During my interviews throughout the months I sat down and asked the same question to three people. Do you view graffiti as an art form or just as trash on a wall? Needless to say I spiked some interest in the interviewees’ eyes and recorded their responses.

While dating back to Greece and the Roman Empires, graffiti has even been around since the first cave drawings on a wall. However, as society changes the meanings of things change as well. Graffiti ranges from letters to full blown wall paintings and has received stings of negativity as spray cans fall into the wrong hands. You will be hearing from Karina Lopez, Megan Stevens and Mary Joy Scott and hear what they have to say about graffiti.

City College’s Diego Rivera Mural

In Artist, Public, Purpose on December 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Today I sat down with Karina Lopez, a student docent for the mural titled Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent, and picked her brain about the facts surrounding the mural painted by Diego Rivera.

*Sections with a star before text denote information later added. William Maynez, who has done research on the mural for 15 years, took the liberty to clarify some information.

When did Rivera paint the mural and how long did it take?

He painted this mural in 1940 and it took him four months.

What was the main message he was trying to send and why did he do it for the setting of a college?

It represents the unity between Latin America and the United States; he tried to portray that throughout the mural. He painted it at Treasure Island for the Golden Gate International Exposition and it was an exposition where different artists were being featured. It actually took 21 years for the mural to come to City College of San Francisco.

Can you go into further detail about why it took so long for the move?

That is actually the interesting part. That guy in the brown suit (points to part of the mural) his name is Timothy Pflueger and he commissioned Rivera to do the mural for us. He was also the architect for our science building so he had connections with our campus. And, as you notice from the mural right there (points to Pflueger again) he is holding blueprints in his hand — he was supposed to be the architect for the CCSF Library where the mural would be moved but he ended up dying in 1946. So he didn’t complete it. Also, back in the 1940s our college was smaller than it is right now and the college had no idea were to put this jumbo sized mural. So it wasn’t until 1961 were his younger brother Milton came in and built this theater for us. (Referring to the Diego Rivera Theater). That is when the mural ended up being with us.

*The mural arrived to CCSF from Treasure Island in June 1942. It was in storage for about 18 years on campus until it was erected. (So for all but 1-1/2 years of the mural’s existence, it’s been on our campus.) The original site for the mural, the grand library was not built because of the scarcity of materials during WWII. (The library that eventually got built in Cloud Hall was more modest and could not accommodate the mural.) After Timothy’s death, his brother Milton Pflueger, became the school architect and it was his idea to bow out the theater’s lobby wall that finally allowed the mural to be installed. The up side was that the mural was on display. The downside was that the viewing distance was lacking by about 60 feet.

Rivera was fully aware of his intentions to move the mural to CCSF?

O yeah, for example, notice the ram right there? (Pointing to the high middle of the mural). That’s actually the CCSF mascot. And the swimming leaping from both sides she is a CCSF alumni.

What are some of the prominent messages in the mural?

The mural as you know was done in 1940. So here is Rivera putting his political views with the big strong American hand crushing the Nazi hand. 

He also puts a V shape which represents a mason symbol which he does throughout his mural just like the ones he has done in Mexico.

Did Rivera have any help completing this mural?

O, yes. One of the people who actually helps with the mural is painted in it with a red sweater. She is actually the main assistant on this mural. And after Diego and Frida (Diego’s wife) left, she took notes about what food they ate and what music they were listening to but she did not published any of her notes. So we really don’t even know what she was writing about. (Lopez chuckles)

* Diego’s primary assistant Emmy Lou Packard (ELP), who had met Rivera in Mexico when she was 13, went and stayed with Diego and Frida for 10 months in 1941 after the mural was finished. She took notes about her stay there. A famous photo of Diego and Frida in their kitchen was taken by ELP in 1941. Well known photos of Frida and ELP are the only documented pictures taken by Diego (with ELP’s camera.)(Of the myriad assistants, she is one of only three who actually got to
paint on the mural.)

Tomorrow I’m having lunch with our good friend Donald Cairns, ELP’s son, and the little boy in the lower center of the mural by Diego and Paulette Goddard. Many years ago he gave us access to all of ELP’s notes (compiled over decades) and we very well know what she wrote about and have copies in our CCSF Rivera Archives. Half of the originals are in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and the other half may soon possibly be donated to the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. These notes
and the extensive Pflueger notes we have give us a compelling picture of the whole process of doing the mural project. Our archives are used by scholars from all over the world.

Did Rivera want his work viewed as a whole or in sections?

You can actually take each panel off and it’s not just one big piece. I’m not sure because the thing about him is that when Rivera finished his exposition in Treasure Island he left and I believe he died before this mural was actually put right here. So he never stepped foot right in this building or saw his mural featured right here.

* The fresco mural (painted on wet plaster) was meant to be seen as a whole and is actually only 1/3 of what was planned. It was built on robust steel framed panels because it was always intended to be transported from Treasure Island to CCSF. The upper panels weigh almost three tons. Their size was determined by the ability to transport them across the Bay Bridge in a vertical orientation. Together their dimensions are a mathematical metaphor for the GG Bridge.

Why did Pflueger wants to commission Rivera to do this mural?

He was a huge, huge supporter and fan of him. Also, if you supported Rivera he would most likely put you in the mural. He is in two spots of this mural. Notice the red building in Treasure Island, that is connected to Pflueger and this building right here, which is at 450 Sutter St., Pflueger was the architect.

* Pflueger was not in the original drawing and was added belatedly in the mural. As head of the Art In Action program at the GGIE, he was able to gather pieces from the program (Ram, DaVinci bust, Volz mosaic murals) to adorn the Science Building, which in 1940 comprised the whole school. He had previously worked with Rivera in 1931 on the Pacific Stock Exchange project. Rivera’s “Allegory of California” mural resides in what is now the private City Club, the old stock exchange dining room.

Do you think that is a theme with frescos? Putting your friends and family in your work?

I think it could be. Rivera put his friends and families.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yeah. This is an interesting part. So, basically here is Frida, which is his third wife by the way. They actually got divorced because Rivera cheated on Frida with her sister. But they got married here in San Francisco for a second time on Dec. 8 which happens to be Diego Rivera’s birthday. And it has been rumored that the earrings she has on were a gift from Pablo Picasso.

* (This is documented and the earrings have recently surfaced at the Casa Azul Museum, Frida’s home.)

One last thing?

I can talk about the mistakes in the mural. So, you know how it was done as a fresco, fresco is this paste that dries really fast, you see this bumping part right here? That part is not supposed to be bumpy it’s supposed to be smooth. And you can see this little line below this girl’s skirt, Rivera kept changing his mind. And right above us, notice *Otto Deichmann’s foot, you can see it kind of overlapping with the women’s foot. Rivera didn’t chip away at it because he didn’t have the time and had to work past. He also signed the murals three times. He signs it on the side, in a letter, and on a pocketbook. It’s super tiny on the pocketbook and most people won’t see it.


From there I had the opportunity to speak with William Maynez on the phone, the Curator for the mural, and he shared with me some additional information.

The mural’s nickname is Pan American Unity and the college plans on moving the mural to a better location for the viewing eye.

“The mural is 60 feet short of being in the optimum place for viewing,” said Maynez.

He said they plan on creating a space next to the new Performing Arts Center that will be built along Phelan Ave.

I regret not having the opportunity to speak with Maynez for a longer period and urge my readers to seek out the mural and enjoy the information there for the benefit of learning. Click here to go to the mural’s website.

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Get the feel of Chinatown murals

In Public on December 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Just like I did with the murals in Balmy Alley, I went around Chinatown and highlighted a few pieces that caught my eye.

The murals featured have work done by Banksy and Darryl Mar, while others remain unclaimed.

Their locations are 720 Grant Ave. and between Stockton St. and Pacific Ave. Enjoy.

Which method of making a mural would you use?

In Public on December 2, 2011 at 7:20 pm

I thought I’d let my viewers have a little fun and answer a poll based on these different mediums for making a mural. *The order of the pro and con list is not based on my own opinion. Enjoy!

1. Oil Painting


  • The paints moves around easily and has more flow than other paints.
  • Easy storage and can come back to use without the fear of it drying out too fast.
  • The smell of it. (Some may enjoy the scent and it may stimulate ideas)
  • You have to familiarize yourself with the technique to ensure that your mural does not crack.
  • You have to avoid dark areas to dry your mural because oil paintings may develop a thin film of oil causing it to yellow.
  • The smell of it. (The smell may turn you off and provide a headache)
2. Mosaic Tiles
  • Adds texture to a piece and allows the piece to pop out of the wall.
  • Comes in many materials: ceramic, glass, stone, plastic.
  • People will understand the time that went into the piece by looking at all the little bits.
  • Great for creativity on another level.
  • May lose important elements to the mural or pieces due to the many parts.
  • May cost more in supplies than using another medium.
  • Can be more time consuming than with another medium.
  • Damage can be done easily: glass; scratches, stone/ceramic; moss and mildew.
3. Fresco
  • Becomes permanent on the spot and after it crystalizes it is even more set into the wall.
  • Works well inside or outside.
  • It is considered a “green” way of painting because it does not use pollutant chemicals.
  • Have to chip away to make any changes and crystalizes after 100 years.
  • You must work quickly and carefully because if there is a mistake you must scrape off the plaster and start anew. Technique might be tedious in the beginning.
  • You cannot move or rearrange a fresco.
4. Spray Paint
  • Spray paint covers more area than a brush does.
  • If you are pressed for time spray paint is faster to use than a brush or mosaic material.
  • Cleans up easier; no brushes to clean or many materials to collect.
  • Good on many surfaces.
  • Bad for the environment and you to breathe in.
  • May be expensive depending on how many cans you need to purchase.
  • Have to be a certain age to purchase.
  • Should not be used in tight corders and is not recommended for indoor use.
5. Acrylic Paints
  • Brushes can be easily cleaned with soap and water.
  • Dries fast. (Don’t have to waste time waiting for it to dry.)
  • Colors change little from wet to dry state so you know what you mural will look like when finished.
  • You can paint on many surfaces.
  • No smell.
  • Dries fast. (It is harder to blend colors on the space you are painting.)
  • No smell. (You may enjoy the smell of a spray can or oil paint.)
  • Have to keep brushes moist while painting.
  • Have to be careful about storage, will dry fast and you may lose a lot of the product if it is not recapped.
  • Will not adhere if there is any grease on the surface.

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 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!


Feedback is always much appreciated and I won’t hesitate to respond.

Women’s Building Onlookers Share Opinion

In Public on October 10, 2011 at 7:58 am

The Women’s Building, located in the Mission district of San Francisco, has sponsored over 170 organizations since its start in 1971 and continues to help those in need. Housing organizations such as Girls on the Run, Global Service Corps, and San Francisco Women Against Rape, the Women’s Building is no stranger to diversity and hearing from influential women in history.

The outside of the Women’s Building wears a layer of paint that represents many things, ranging from images of nature to illustrations of ‘couragious’ women throughout history. This mural, titled “MaestraPeace,” was done by seven artists as well as many helpers.

Below are several interviews conducted to get a first taste of what the public thinks about the mural.


Keep an eye open for an elaborated piece on the Women’s Building mural that will provide more background information about the workings of MaestraPeace. If you have any questions you would like answered, comment below and I will do my best to sniff ’em out.

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Women’s Building Interview Transcript

Tieman: Hi, I Virginia Tieman and welcome to When Paint Meets Purpose. Today you will be hearing from a few people who had something to share about the Women’s Building mural in San Francisco. I started my quest for information on the inside of the building and quickly located the front desk.

[Door opening]

Tieman: After receiving information about a person who could give me a tour at a later date I ventured upstairs to ask people who worked inside the building if they had any opinion about the mural that covers the building’s walls.

[Walking up stairs]

Tieman: After much running up and down of stairs and at least wishing I recorded the sound of crickets, I came out empty handed and couldn’t believe that people working in such a building didn’t have an opinion about it. My next move was to relocate to outside of the building and snag people that were passing by.

[Birds chirping]

Graciella Mesa: My name is Graciella Mesa. I’m 21. I am a women and gender studies major, and I am originally from Orange County. I think this building is very interesting and a very powerful building. It represents the different modes of women, you know, different ways that women are represented in their culture. It just proves that there isn’t one way to be a woman, that there isn’t just one aspect of womanhood that we all have to be a part of, and that there is so much diversity in just people in general, but practically women in this building. It’s such a beautiful mural and it’s very empowering. It’s a very bright and vivid building. So I mean initially just looking at it would attract any person walking by, especially if they don’t know what this building is, and it would definitely attract people to maybe walk into the building, at least examine the building and sort of see what it’s about. I mean by looking at what is represented on the wall you can tell that it is about women and it is about a diversity of women, of different cultures, of different aspects. Would they necessarily know what the Women’s Building is for? Probably not, but, like specially what it’s for, maybe not, but I’m sure it’s not something that is hard to figure out.

Noelle Skool: Hi, I’m Noelle Skool. We’re outside the Women’s Building and as much as I appreciate about what’s inside the building I don’t really have an opinion on the painting on the outside. I think it gorgeous, but it’s a lot going on and I would see people taking pictures in front of it.

Christine Preziosi: My name is Christine Preziosi. I look at the Women’s Building pretty much like three or four times a week ‘cause it stands out in the city. What I most like about it is how beautiful and creative it is when people inside are dealing with such horrific and traumatic stuff. I think there are pretty impressive and prominent images on it. A few stand out for me, like the front. The naked woman, Mother Earth, ‘Mama Earth,’ I like seeing that every time I go to my ‘Mama Earth’ yoga class. That’s pretty much what I think of, but my friend does that here. So, yeah, that’s pretty great.

Tieman: After scrapping the bottom of the barrel, expertise wise, I walked away from the Women’s Building wanting more. Lucky for the viewers of this blog that is just what you are going to get. This appetizer of an interview set you up for the main course. So, stay tuned for another piece about the Women’s building that will feature somebody with the answers behind the mural. Once again, this is Virginia Tieman with When Paint Meets Purpose — where San Francisco’s murals come to life.

Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X receive public opinion

In Public on September 12, 2011 at 8:33 am

Whether attending classes, taking a tour, or merely visiting San Francisco State University, one notices something about the vibrant campus. SFSU is home to six murals that all in some way portray a message of equality and the fight toward that equality.

Two important murals displayed at SFSU are those that are placed by the entrance to the Cesar Chavez Student Center in the Malcolm X Plaza.

The first to the left is the Cesar Chavez mural that was dedicated on May 5, 1995. This was after SFSU renamed the once called, San Francisco State University Student Union to the Cesar Chavez Student Center in honor of Chavez.

Right beside the Cesar Chavez mural is painted the Malcolm X mural. This was completed on May 15, 1996 and was the second Malcolm X mural after the first was removed for claims of being “anti-semitic.”

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Many students pass these murals more than once a day and even sit underneath them pondering what message is being made.

“Together they both made an impact in history. With everything that is going on now, the protests, budget cuts and the economy, these murals make us remember the past and to not forget where we came from,” said criminal justice major Anastasia Anadon.

Anadon felt that the main message the murals were trying to portray was that no matter what race, gender, or sexuality a person is, if Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X can succeed, then anyone can as well.

The quote depicted under the Malcolm X mural, “By any means necessary,” reflects his independent thinking and brings Anadon’s thoughts home in regard that Malcolm believed “regardless of status, everyone can speak and act for social change, justice, and freedom for all.”

Anadon’s friend, Linda Duncan, a criminal justice major, feels the quote’s main objective was pointed toward a different point.

“The mural is at a school and that has to mean something. Our tool is education and we have to complete that objective ‘by any means necessary,’” Duncan said.

Duncan said the murals are inspirational being able to see them everyday and that society has become blinded by the incorrect information about history and the public needs to go back and learn.

“Education is freedom, that’s the big picture right there,” said Duncan.

Duncan hit the nail on the head when looking back on Chavez’s political beliefs. To Chavez, education was one of the most important tools of a movement.

When comparing our murals to other university’s, Allison Aguilar, kinesiology major, feels SFSU has a different feel.

“We have diverse murals at our campus and I feel like other campuses don’t showcase murals of this nature. In the end, I think (Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez) would be proud that we have these murals,” said Aguilar.