RIP Charles Gatewood, Underground Photographer and Bernal Neighbor

Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

Charles Gatewood (1942-2016)

Photographer Charles Gatewood passed away last week at age 74. He was a longtime resident of Mirabel Street.

Neighbor Charles built his career photographing rock music celebrities, but later in his career he took an interest in alternative culture and sexuality. Even if you never knew him, you probably know some of his work. This was the first photo Charles Gatewood ever published, in 1966:

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“Dylan With Sunglasses and Cigarette,” by Charles Gatewood

Writing for BoingBoing, former Bernal neighbor David Pescovitz summarized Charles Gatewood’s legacy:

Charles Gatewood, a pioneering photographer of the underground for nearly 50 years, died today from injuries sustained in a fall from his third-floor balcony. He was 74.

From documenting the Beats and the dark alleys of 1970s Mardi Gras to extreme body modification practitioners and sexual fetishists, Charles lived his life as a curious, open-minded photographic anthropologist at the fringes of culture.

I first encountered Charles’s work in the 1980s through the groundbreaking RE/Search book Modern Primitives and a grainy VHS dub of the documentary “Dances Sacred and Profane” about his quest for individuals “breaking the bounds of convention.” We first met in 1993 and I always looked forward to the terrific stories of his travels through the interzones that he happily shared with me. Charles was warm, generous, witty, and very grounded.

Tattoo Mike, by Charles Gatewood

Tattoo Mike, by Charles Gatewood

Neighbor Charles was close friends with Bernal Neighbor Annie Sprinkle, and she shared these thoughts about him:

Charles Gatewood was my close friend, photography mentor and sometimes collaborator since 1977. He was enormously talented, an influential photographer, and he lived his life on his own terms. A lot of folks in the body art, music, poetry, sex worker communities are sad today as he passed away, and also enormously grateful for the treasure trove of images he made of so many of us, which thank goodness are housed safely archived at UC Berkeley.

He was a sweet bad ass. Also fun to photograph. He made some of the best photos of me ever. Most too explicit for Facebook.

Its been an honor to be part of the last chapter of his life. He was in ICU for over two weeks, and I got to visit him, be part of the love fest surrounding him, and go to add my opinions at the three “ethics committee meetings” about his care. Finally the medical team took him off life support so that he could leave his broken body and find some peace.

A public ‘memorial celebration’ is being planned for the Center For Sex & Culture in about two months, to give folks time to travel. There might also be something in New York City if someone takes the lead. Details to come. Charles’ sister Betty lost her last family member and only brother. She donated his cornea to help someone see better. What a lucky person to get Charles Gatewoods cornea! Charles wanted to be cremated. All is well and as it should be now. Needless to say, I’m very sad, as well as relieved he is out of pain. He was an important person in my life to whom I shall always be grateful.

Big love to all those who are sad to see Charles go. See you at the memorial, and eventually at the big UC Berkeley Gatewood archive presentation one day, for a grand reunion. Stardust to stardust…

Sigh.

Here’s a (NSFW) video of Neighbor Charles giving a tour of his own archive in 2012, including a cameo of some photos he took of Neighbor Annie Sprinkle:

Bernal Artist Todd Berman’s “City of Awesome” on Display at Mission Pie

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Walking home recently after exiting the fashionable 24th Street BART station, your Bernalwood editor did a double-take at Mission Pie on the corner of Mission and 25th. As I passed Mission Pie (yum!) and looked in the window, I could’ve sworn I saw artwork by Bernal artist Todd Berman hanging on the walls.

I backtracked a few steps back to enter Mission Pie and take a close look. And sure enough, my hunch was correct: A big display of Neighbor Todd’s art really is hanging  on the walls of Mission Pie, and it looks glam-o-rama.

A few days later, Todd sent an email to tell me about the show. He also mentioned that there’s a reception for it happening tomorrow, Tuesday, April 26. Neighbor Todd says:

I’ve just hung a new show at Mission Pie. This is a special showing of the 42 foot long City of Awesome painting which you may have seen filling the inside of a Muni bus since October. I ‘d been selected to create original art for SF Beautiful’s Muni Art program. A jury had narrowed the pool artists from 135 down to 10, then the popular vote narrowed it down to five winners.

To create these paintings, I asked people at events, on the street, and in classrooms what they do to help make San Francisco so awesome, and to draw a picture of themselves in action. All of the drawings were then meticulously cut out by hand and collaged into paintings of neighborhoods in the city.

This is a panel showing the block of Mission Street and Crescent Ave (I live on Crescent):

cityawesome1Here’s another panel featuring Mission Pie and a view of our awesome hill:

cityawesome2There will be a reception on Tuesday, April 26 from 6 to 8 pm,, but the art is up at Mission Pie from now until the end of April, and this will be the only time to see it in it’s entirety.

IMAGES: Top, art by Todd Berman on display at Mission Pie; photo by Telstar Logistics. Below, artwork detail courtesy of Todd Berman.

This Weekend: Go See Bernal Artists in Mission Open Studios

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There’s an open artists’ studios event happening in The Mission this weekend, and a few Bernal artists will be participating. Neighbor (and artist) Miles Epstein shared these tips on where to go to see some Bernal artists in action:

This weekend is Mission Artist United Spring Open Studios.

There are quite a few Bernal artists who maintain a presence in The Mission, and they’ll be opening their doors between noon and 6pm Sat and Sunday April 16 and 17.

Sophia Green and Miles Epstein will be showing at the Back To The Picture Gallery 934 Valencia @ 20th (Fun Fact:  Derek Hargrove, the excellent area manager for Back To The Picture, also lives in Bernal)

Sharon Steuer will be open at Workspace, 2150 Folsom @ 17th

Rachel Leibman, Catherine Mackey, and Peter Liang will be open at 1890 Bryant.

Wendy Miller also has a studio at 1890 Bryant Street.

 PHOTO: Painter Catherine Mackey

A Barroom History of the Odd Mural in The Lucky Horseshoe

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Last week, the humble but delightful Lucky Horseshoe bar on Cortland celebrated its fifth anniversary. Hooray! That’s a big deal, because it means that The Lucky Horseshoe can now lay claim to its proud own era at 453 Cortland, a barroom space that has been home to several previous eras of Bernal dive-bar legend.

For decades after World War II, 453 Cortland was known as The Cherokee. (More about that in a moment.) Then the space became Skip’s Tavern, a bar nearby neighbors remember for being rough around the edges and loud at night. Yet Skip’s was also home to some rather incredible blues music and a vibrant culture of its own.

Since then, Lucky Horseshoe has established its own funky vibe, and it retains a commitment to music. It’s friendly and well-maintained, but it’s still the kind of dive a neighborhood can be proud of.  CONGRATS Team Lucky Horseshoe!

Through all this, presiding over all these eras of boozy history at 453 Cortland, is the big, weird mural painted above the front door. It’s a faded, vintage scene of cowboys, Indians, and rolling Western landscapes, and it’s obviously been there for a long time:

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What’s the backstory on the mural?

Lucky for all of us, Neighbor Vicky Walker from the Bernal Heights History Project is on the case. Neighbor Vicky tells Bernalwood:

Here’s what we know about the mural inside 453 Cortland!

The mural was painted by Harold Vick (1915-?). Here he is as a young man:

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Later, Harold Vick worked at the Sommer and Kaufmann shoe store on Market Street as a card writer, sometimes listed as an artist. (LOOK at that store. Amazing!)

Harold got married in 1940 and moved to 19 Roscoe in South Bernal. His brother, Melvin, took over The Cherokee and ran it with his wife, Barbara, from 1943 to 1946.

The Cherokee in 1973, from the Max Kirkeberg Collection

The Cherokee in 1973, from the Max Kirkeberg Collection

Harold probably served in World War II. There’s another Harold Vick listed as a survivor of the Bataan Death March, but I haven’t been able to confirm that it’s him yet. In any case, Harold Vick is absent from the city directories from 1942 onward, although his wife, Patricia (Patti/Patsy) is still listed at 19 Roscoe in 1946. And Harold Vick never appears in S.F. directories again.

All that means we can probably assume that Harold Vick painted the Cherokee mural right around the time it was first owned by Melvin Vick.

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The story is told that the Harold Vick painted for beer money. The drunker he got, the odder the mural in the Cherokee became:

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The mural in the Cherokee wasn’t Harold Vick’s only barroom masterpiece.  We know he also painted “After Cassino” which hung at 309 Cortland in Duval’s Studio Club.

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Duval’s Studio Club became Charlie’s, which was a dive bar. That became the Stray Bar, which is now Holy Water.

The mural there was from 1944. My pal Jenner Davis is a former bartender at Charlie’s, and the daughter of Anita Davis, who was Regi Harvey’s partner, who sang all the time at Skip’s. She says: “The scene depicted in ‘After Cassino’ was taken from an original sketch Harold Vick found, singed and burned, in a field as he was crossing it with his platoon during World War II.  Nearby were the remains of the artist who created the sketch, and his unsuspecting female subject, who had blown them both to bits when her plow hit a land mine.”

Here’s a detail from Harold Vick’s ‘After Cassino’:

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We’re told that After Cassino’ now lives in the private dining room at Avedano’s.

IMAGE: Hanging the new sign at the Lucky Horseshoe in 2011

Bernal Watercolorist Laurie Wigham Captures Changing Landscapes of San Francisco

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Bernal neighbor Laurie Wigham is an artist who leads our local watercolor tribe. She often paints pictures of scenes captured around Bernal Heights, but this month she is displaying work that shows other parts of Our Faire City.

Neighbor Laurie explains:

I’m showing some of my work at a gallery in the Spark Arts Gallery (4229 18th St.) in the Castro. The show is “The Changing City: Painting San Francisco’s Changing Identity,” and it will be on display until April 28. The opening reception happens on Thursday, April 7 from 7-8:30 pm.

Throughout its history San Francisco has always been reimagining itself and trying on new identities. But right now there is a lot of bitterness and anger at how the influx of new tech wealth is rapidly remaking the city and displacing so many of the long-term residents (including the artists).

I thought it would be interesting to organize a series of sketching meetups in the areas which are changing most rapidly and to see if the process of sitting down to sketch the changes would make it possible for us to think more clearly about what’s happening. So far I don’t feel that I’ve had any great insights, but it’s been a good thing to be still and think while I draw. Here are a few of the sketches I’ve done.

Mission Bay: Until recently this old industrial waterfront area was mostly fields of weeds and rubble around scattered old warehouses. Overnight it seems to have filled up with blocks of gleaming medical research facilities, high tech businesses and luxury condos.

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The Mission: This flat area in the southeast part of the city has traditionally been working class—Latino for the last half century, Irish before that. Many blocks like this one are still full of taquerias, murals and graffiti in colors that came from some warmer tropical place. But the Mission is turning into hipster central, and I did this sketch sitting in a new cafe and sipping a $5 single-source pour-over coffee.

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The corner building below is still boarded up after a fire last January which killed one man and left 58 homeless. It was ruled an accidental fire, but there have been so many fires in the Mission this year, each one displacing more long-term low income residents and opening up valuable real estate for developers to build more luxury condos. The new condo building next to it, in bright yellows and oranges, seems to have been thoughtfully developed in many ways, and the New Mission movie theater next to it has been restored and reopened after decades sitting derelict, so maybe not all the change is bad. But every time I sit down to sketch in that area, people stop to tell me their stories about they or someone they’re close to has had to move.

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Here’s the detail on the show:

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IMAGES: All watercolors by Laurie Wigwam. Top, “Green Glass Forest”, somewhere aroung the Millennium Towers.

New Murals Take Shape Inside Sutrito Tower Complex

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In case you hadn’t already noticed, the muralization of the the Sutrito Tower utility building is well underway on Bernal Hill. Omar Masry from the SF Planning Department says:

Precita Eyes Muralists has begun work (see attached photos) on the mural on the walls of the main equipment building (nothing is being added to the fence or tower). Weather permitting, the mural should be completed in a few weeks.

The building permit to remedy prior site deficiencies has been completed, with landscaping (non-invasive type) and a water tank (will generally utilized recycled water) for landscaping. We are also working with American Tower (the site operator) on making sure lighting is not on all night.

If you see anything suspicious or attempts to trespass please contact the Ingleside Police Station at (415) 404-4000.

IMAGES: Courtesy of SF Planning Department

Wednesday: Reception for Bernal Artist Todd Berman at Avenue

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Bernal Heights artist Todd Berman has some of his work on display at Avenue, the event space at 3361 Mission Street near Virginia, just across from our Taoist Safeway. Tomorrow night, Wednesday, Mar. 2 from 7 to 9 pm, Neighbor Todd will be hosting an artist’s reception, and of course you’re so invited. Todd says:

The art don’t stop. That means I just want to keep filling up canvases with paint and filling up my closets canvases.

On Wednesday March 2, I’m having an art show at Avenue – that new and pretty little event space at 3361 Mission Street in La Lengua, across from the Taoist Safeway with the unobstructed views of Twin Peaks.

This show is part of a fire sale. I’ve reduced prices drastically for many of my paintings in an effort to make room in my closets. If I have to take the art back home, the prices go back up again.

You can find out more about the reception here, and all the art can be viewed online (and can be purchased via email as well).

I hope my Bernal neighbors can give these paintings (many of which are all about the awesomeness of San Francisco) a good home.

IMAGE: “City Commerce” by Todd Berman