Neighbor Builds Stunning 3D Topographical Map of Bernal Heights

Cardboard Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That's 101 on the far left.

3D Bernal Hill, from the northeast. That’s 101 on the far left.

Bernal Hill, from the northwest

3D Bernal Hill, from the northwest

A few weeks ago, Neighbor John from Lundys Lane invited your Bernalwood editor to see his latest project: A 3D topographical map of Bernal Heights, made entirely from sheets of cardboard.

It’s so cool! So incredible! So WOW! Bernalwood asked Neighbor John to tell us more about how he did it:

I started the project to create a three dimensional piece of art for my living room. I was inspired by some abstract landscape brass reliefs, and I’d been searching for an inspiring idea. Then I saw a very detailed Bernal topographic map, and knew I had my subject.

I was able to get a version of the data for the topographic map. The original data had lines for every 5 feet of elevation, which was too detailed, so I removed every other line to create a elevations for every 10 feet. This took a bit of time, but it was super cool to engage with the detailed topography of Bernal, especially since I run or walk on the hill almost every morning.

The next step was to decide on a material to use for each elevation layer. Through this process I met almost-Bernal neighbor Alex at Pagoda Arts. He convinced me that architectural chipboard would be relatively easy to work with, and it came in the right thickness so that the total height of the piece would be between four and five inches — three dimensional, but still hangable on a wall.

I created a file that Alex could use for his laser cutter, and he cut forty-five layers for me. I then glued them together using high quality tacky glue.

The gluing process was laborious and tense. The layers are very detailed, so positioning them precisely was required, all with fast-drying glue. But it was amazing to watch Bernal Heights grow from the top of my work bench. At the end I could hardly wait to get the next layers on.

We live on a beautiful hill, and it’s fun to see it from this perspective.

Here are a few more pics:

View from southeast

View from southeast


Sutrito Tower site on Bernal Hill, viewed from the south

Funny thing about these photos, of course, is that it’s hard to tell that it’s a physical object.  So here are a few more pics, with objects added to provide more depth and scale. Here’s a pair of glasses sitting on Cortland Avenue around Nevada Street:


And here’s a Sharpie pen, roughly following the path of Gates Street:



PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

Bigoted Graffiti Mars New College Hill Mural


Last weekend, your Bernalwood editor stopped by Mission Street near the corner of Appleton just as artist Josh Talbott was putting some finishing touches on the mural he’d been commissioned to create by the College Hill Neighborhood Association.

It was a warm day, and Josh was working in the shade while his dog relaxed on the sidewalk. His mural is a photorealistic image of a hand holding a small glass sphere, and it looked great:


Yesterday, Bernalwood received several reports that the new College Hill mural had been defaced with graffiti. Neighbor Kim wrote:

I recently admired a photo of the new utility closet mural going up on Mission south of Randall. A friend says the artist is this dude who was apparently a refugee from Hurricane Katrina. Another friend tells me the mural was just defaced with the phrase “No hipster art.” Gentrification of aesthetics? Nativist extremism demands we all enjoy only murals of fetuses with sun glowing from their nether regions? What?

Neighbor Matt said:

This was a blank wall of peeling paint. Then it was a nice mural. Then someone who’s a) a jerk and b) has an inane argument if you can call it that, defaced it.

Neighbor Caro lives near the mural. She describes how she was awakened late Tuesday night by the sound of a man screaming:

This pisses me off. Josh Talbott Fineart is improving this community. He’s painting at Mission St and Appleton, and [Tuesday] night around 1.20-1.30am my dog started barking because a guy was screaming slurs against white people and hipsters.

On the bright side, Neighbor Caro shared a follow-up  today to say that the mural has already been restored:

Glad to see this morning this!!! Such a great job this community is doing to keep things beautiful!

She also shared this photo, taken this morning:


PHOTOS: Top, graffiti by Neighbor Matt. Josh Tabott at work by Telstar Logistics. Restored mural by Neighbor Caro.


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:


“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…


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



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


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


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:

Lucky-Horseshoe-interior-slide-3 copy

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:

Harold-Vick-grew-up-218-Cortland slide 1 copy

Vick-illustrations-slide-2 copy
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.

Lucky-Horseshoe-interior-slide-4 copy

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

Lucky-Horseshoe-interior-slide-5 copy

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.

Duval's-Studio-Club-slide-10 copy

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’:

Charlie's-Club-After-Cassino-slide-12 copy

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


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.


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.


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.


Here’s the detail on the show:


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