The story of San Francisco’s latest and most controversial mural within the Castro

San Francisco loves a good mural. But in the case of the artwork on the SF LGBT center side, the city might as well hate a good mural.

The saga of the purple wall in Octavia and Market Streets has become one of the most controversial public art subjects of late. The wall stayed empty for more than 100 years until the street artist fnnch, who is responsible for honey bear art in San Francisco, approached the LGBT center with an idea for a mural for the 50th year of pride in 2020.

Fnnch’s popularity led him to raise $ 293.00 for charity in 2020, according to the California News Times. Fifty percent of the sales of many of his bear pictures go to charitable organizations. For every $ 600 painting by Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence that you see in a window, for example, the organization received $ 300. In a statement on Instagram, he said $ 20,000 was raised specifically for the LGBT center. But the ubiquity of his artwork sparked a citywide backlash, and his transplant status in San Francisco led to allegations of gentrification. The problem was compounded when a confrontational video appeared on social media about repainting the LGBT center mural after it was destroyed. In the video, he claimed to be an immigrant and stated that he was from Missouri.

Now, a week before Pride starts, the mural has been replaced with a new piece of art by queer artists Juan Manuel Carmona and Simón Malvaez, whose artwork has been on display in El Rio, Blondies and next to the Painted Ladies. The new work of art was created through a union of one of the city’s most legendary drag queens, Juanita MORE !, who introduced the two artists to the LGBT center. They expressed an interest in painting the wall with a collection of strange historical icons and local guides, and conceived not only a work of art, but also an educational series on the characters depicted that will run throughout the year.

“We decided to use the colors of the flag of progressive pride and turn each color into a character that means something important to both of us in our queer history,” says Malvaez.

The artists Juan Manuel Carmona (left) and Simón Malvaez in front of their newly unveiled mural in the Castro entitled “Queeroes”.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

“We picked characters who were masters in town. We wanted locals who did something for the community and especially for San Francisco, ”says Carmona, who quotes living legends like Sister Roma and Honey Mahogany, and of course MORE !, as well as historical figures like Harvey Milk and Frida Kahlo.

Malvaez grew up in Tijuana and spent time in Mexico City before moving to San Francisco three years ago. Carmona was born in Texas, then lived in central Mexico before moving to San Francisco about 10 years ago and working in a bar at Castro while attending art school. Her greatest influences come from the rich tradition of political art in Mexico.

A close-up of the newly revealed

A close-up of the newly unveiled “Queeroes” mural shows Sister Roma in detail.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

“As a team, I would say that our biggest influences are the Mexican mural. It may sound a little clichéd, but the style that Frida Kahlo made, and Diego Rivera, and [David Alfaro] Siqueiros and how they represented their reality and were political with their art. I think we do similar things in today’s society and who we are and who we represent, ”says Malvaez.

“We are queer Latino artists in San Francisco. If we wanted to define what our style is, it is exploration between LGBT communities. All of our murals have rainbows or a drag queen or some kind of representation of those communities that we belong to. And our interface to our Latin American heritage, ”says Carmona.

Their identity as immigrants shapes the new art, as does their reaction to the viral video by fnnch defending the previous mural.

“I’m an immigrant, so I took it a little more personally. As someone who has experienced immigration, I find that disappointing, ”says Malvaez.

“We have nothing against the previous artist. It’s very unfortunate what happened, but it’s also an opportunity to have more eyes on us and a wider audience to deliver a message of love and the strange heroes, ”says Carmona.

The newly unveiled mural in the Castro entitled

The newly unveiled mural in the Castro with the title “Queeroes” by the artists Juan Manuel Carmona and Simón Malvaez.

Mariah Tiffany / Special for SFGATE

Fnnch doesn’t seem to have any malice about replacing his artwork. In an email to SFGATE, he announced that he had recently spent time with Carmona and Malvaez before he knew they were going to paint the mural. “They are both wonderful people and I am a fan of them and their art. I look forward to seeing your mural at the SF LGBT Center. I am honored to have contributed to the start of this rotating wall program, ”he wrote. He also addressed the controversy in an Instagram post.

As for the future of Carmona and Malvaez’s work, they hope that their emphasis on community personalities will prevent them from facing the same vandalism that the honey bears committed. But in addition to providing a visual reminder of the city’s strange history, hopefully the mural will serve as an educational tool.

“The mural is the first step in this project. It’s bigger than that. The center will keep reporting on these characters we wanted to celebrate, but we’re also inviting the people who see these murals to show us their own strange symbols and influences, ”says Malvaez.

“To celebrate this during pride, it is important that we show people that they are not alone. I think part of the Centre’s identity is this sanctuary where you can actually be free and be who you are. We hope this mural will evoke this in people. We also have heroes, we are not alone, ”says Carmona.

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