In 2011 I was invited by Thea Selby and the Lower Haight Mural Collective to take part in their mural wall at Haight Street on the building at 55 Laguna.
The building – once owned by UC Berkeley but now sold to a private developer and with development stalled by the recession – was slated to be demolished in about a year.
I set to work creating my blank canvas.
I decided to take the temporary nature of the site as a theme and created Gone but Not Forgotten, an interactive mural that invited people to use chalk to make their own unique memorials in words or drawings over the course of a year.
It was important to me to have the seed/leaf shapes represent the cycle of life, and having them disappear into the ground was purposeful. The hand from above can be seen as either dropping the seeds/leaves or trying to hold on to them. I used the simplest of instructions, “Fill me in,” to make it open to the viewer’s interpretation.
This is the mural on day 1.
Being on a road that has thousands of people going by every day, both commuters and tourists, meant the mural would fill up quickly. I had hoped for lots of participants, but the sheer number was a little overwhelming.
The mural filled up so quickly, I decided to clean it every other week (and sometimes every week) so that there was room for new participants.
Although there was an occasional rude drawing or message, the majority by far were sincere, and I was often moved and inspired by people’s messages.
Here is the first video I did of the mural being created.
Initially it included an area where I did spontaneous, improvised chalk paintings once a week, and this also includes that first painting.
One benefit of my regular maintenance visits to the mural was getting to meet many of the contributors, both those from the neighborhood who went by almost every day and those from a surprising (to me) number of countries around the world.
I loved hearing all of their stories and seeing what they decided to create. More than a few times I ran into someone in mourning, but I didn’t take their picture since that didn’t seem like what anyone needs when they’re dealing with loss.
This is a video of the second temporary painting. I love how the chalk paint slowly becomes visible as it dries.
This painting was in week 2, and at that point, after seeing how quickly the rest of the mural filled up, I decided to paint over it and create more spaces for people to put their messages and memorials.
At one point local street artist Jeremy Novy came by and added some of his signature koi fish to the sidewalk.
My assistant Lara then embellished his addition, with this beautiful result.
The building was finally demolished in 2014 and a new building is now in its place, but for me it will definitely never be forgotten.
A big thank you to my incredibly talented assistants, Alison Dale and Lara De Garie, for their help creating and maintaining the mural and creating the videos; and to the amazing folks at HealthRIGHT 360, who took over maintenance of it in the last few months; and to Jim Coursey and Michael Musika, who were kind enough to share their music for the videos.