The Way You Make Me Feel addresses the impact of soaring rents, pending evictions, and growing homogeneity on San Francisco's dwindling bohemian class. Echoing the uncertainty felt by many artists and outliers who have called SF their home for decades, the exhibit seeks to create an environment that elicits communal longing, shared memory, and a gnawing, visceral sense of instability.
Anchoring the show with three opposing sentiments—destruction, resilience, and waning fortitude, the gallery will host three formidable oil paintings by local artists: one of a demolition scene (Heidi McDowell), one of a middle-aged, same-sex couple in their artist co-op home (Matt Frederick), and one of the dwindling remnants of a glacier resting in shallow waters near a rust-colored bridge reminiscent of the Golden Gate. The latter, also by McDowell, is actually based on a photograph taken in Iceland, but the sentiment, that of both holding on and diminishment, sets an eerie backdrop for this curated dialogue about the current state of San Francisco—and perhaps cities everywhere.
Wistful cityscapes by painters Katja Leibenath and Randy Beckelheimer, whose studios are in the Bay View District, simultaneously invoke a sense of serene detachment while serving to document San Francisco's urban history. In this particular series, Leibenath, who is also well-known for her figurative work, sought to “portray a place over the course of time,” adding that “humans seem too temporary a theme, next to stoic buildings.” Beckelheimer gives loving attention to urban scenes, from the heart of Mission Street to Hunter’s Point Shipyard. Both urban settings seem to glow, as if the artist wanted to imbue an other-worldliness onto these less than glamorous architectural subjects.
Employing a much starker palette, the dark, finely wrought aquatint etchings by printmaker Sarah M. Newton focus on familiar “empty places,” such as BART stations, devoid of bustling rush hour crowds. From Newton’s artist statement: “Hand drawn on metal plates, the prints are created slowly, through etching, scraping, burnishing and proofing the plates repeatedly. The attention that goes into the development of the image constitutes a meditation on details and spaces that normally don’t receive more than a passing notice.”
Echoing this statement, painter Heidi McDowell talks about her attention to craftsmanship when rendering in oil paint on hand-stretched canvases images originally taken with a digital camera.
“If we can become more grounded in the present, we have the ability to make a stronger connection to our changing environment.” This statement rings particularly true when you consider McDowell’s studio is in a micro-neighborhood which has again become home-base for many start-ups and is one of the epicenters of pricy lofts and trendy restaurants.
Adobe Book’s owner Andrew McKinley’s small photographic portraits of creatives, many of whom have had to leave the Mission District in search of more sustainable habitats, call to mind happier, less stressful times. In an effort to say something about the slow but palpable exodus of artists from San Francisco in general and the Mission in particular, curator Lori Shantzis has strung these photos on string with clothes pins—letting the “people” in this exhibit hang from the literal rafters of a.Muse Gallery, located in a former warehouse district which is now “tech central.”
“It’s like anyone who doesn’t make a lot of money has been ‘hung out to dry,’” says Shantzis, whose gallery is dedicated to both affordable art and helping to sustain local artists. She notes this definition of the idiom “hung out to dry” in the Wiktionary: To abandon someone who is in need or in danger, especially a colleague or one dependent.
“Yup,” says Shantzis, “that pretty much sums it up.”