El Refugio

A place on the web for escapism.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Seattle: Gay Pride Day

Unbeknownst to me, I'd arrived in Seattle on Gay Pride Day. At first, I'd noticed a lot of really tall women in Seattle. The closer I walked, the closer I looked: Those aren't Women! Big laugh! I need glasses, and to turn my gay-dar back on. For years, I'd marched in, attended or watched the Gay Pride Parade  in SF--and here I'd blundered into Seattle's version.  Waiting in long lines at the bathrooms proved entertaining at least, as a variety of lewd and no-so lewd tongue-in-cheek comments were bandied about. These  signs for the restrooms are tiled on the floor, and yielded a funny banter:

Seattle's Pike's Place Market. File under
"Don't forget to look down!"

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Take That! Ronald!

Somewhere in Italy, my friend jcRiver stumbled across this delightful statue.

Ketchikan: Public Transit

From the late 80's til about 2001, I rode public transit as I commuted from Oakland to SF day in and day out. At one point  the trans-bay and local buses became bus-sized advertising billboards, plastered in their entirety with giant ads. Horrible! It became impossible to see out the windows, which diminished the whole "riding the bus" experience tremendously. It is with relief that I show you an alternative in Ketchikan, AK, where they have beautiful buses whisking tourists off to "historic" "red-light" districts. Well, never mind that, the buses are pretty.

As it had turned out to be such a fine rainy day, I chose to walk and hike instead, arriving early and exploring areas a bit beyond the touristy jewelry - trinket - t-shirt shops. Everything was lush and green, as a rain forest should be.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ketchikan: Pier Art

Industrious, Beaver typically displays his large teeth and trademark flattened tail.

Both of these modern art pieces feel a little bit "theatrical" in their brightly overdone colors (shimmering purple?, really?). Older totems, or totems made in a more traditional style use natural dyes, such as berries, mosses, tree bark and clay. Natural dyes are generally more muted than modern paints, and lack preservatives, consequently, they appear to age over time. (I'm still wondering if these two examples are made from fiberglass, but couldn't get close enough to find out.)

Raven is distinguished from Eagle by its straight beak, whereas Eagle  has the tell-tale bird of prey hooked beak. Raven is also known as one who stole the Sun, and is often pictured with a sun disc in its beak, hidden under a wing, or clutched in its claws. Note the high tide marks on the pole.

Ketchikan: Stained Glass

Along the walkway from the pier are these fine stained glass banners.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SF Murals - Monkey Cycles

Monkey Cycles

Saturday, May 7, 2011

SF Murals - Lower Haight #2

They have record stores and murals in Lower Haight too. But with a different flavor from murals in other parts of the City. I was muddled after a dr's appt., so I found these by being a little lost, one street over from my usual route outta town. I was distracted enough to allow a stop and snap these photos.

Edo Salon
603 Haight Street @ Steiner

 And across Steiner, you have these:

Black Pancake Records "Hot stacks of Wax"
593 Haight @ Steiner
Lower Haters Gallery @ 597 Haight,
which installed a new mural series on the walls of its building.
Of them, this is my favorite:

by Michael Kershnar

This guy and his friend are weird adornments by muralists 'Skinner' and '2501' that express the element of dark horror lingering below the surface of the lower Haight.

Crabby urbanites courtesy of Galo, an Italian artist:

Don't Forget to Look Down!

These guys look like they're part of a dark kids' book,
with adventures in grey places:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SF Mosaics: Haight Street

This is the exterior of the Cold Steel America shop.  Tattoos & Piercings. Nope, I haven't been inside, *yet*. Its nice on the outside. I'm thinking  if the next round of surgery doesn't go well, I might just stop in for some incision jewelry.

The clear/white tiles are mirrors and shine nicely.

Monday, April 25, 2011

SF Murals - Lower Haight #1

As seen on a small wall on Haight Street.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Buckets O' Rain... Reinspired

I posted a while back with a preliminary attempt at key art. It was fun, one of those very very late night art projects inspired initially by my own inability to keep track of my keys. I won't delve into the deeper meanings presented by locks and keys as symbols in my own life, but I did want to share this key art mosaic that adorns the front of the Greenwich Safe & Locksmith shop in NYC.

There are great photos at Scouting NY: The Coolest Locksmith Shop in NYC, which show the shop before and after the installation of thousands of discarded keys.

There's another article on Oddity Central: Incredible Key Art at the Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York February 10th, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

SF Murals - Hampshire Street Paper Lace

I'm disinclined to write anything about this at all. Cut paper. Deteriorating.  Ephemeral, you could say. Hampshire @ 24th Street. You can see it on Google Maps. Swoon-Wiki.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Flying Saucer of 1970s Sound Systems

You can file this under the heading of  
Things I WISH I still owned from the 1970s...
My grandfather was a whiz at fixing things, electronics in particular, and when he retired, he opened a repair shop. One of the great things that came out of that Las Vegas repair shop was an early 1970s Electrohome Stereo Turntable. Is this cool OR WHAT?? I had this all through my childhood, but it disappeared when I went to college. Argh! I've missed it and the record collection my dad had, notably, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Smokey Robinson, even Neil Diamond.

Space Ship Listening Center

I have a hodge-podge of records, and the slap-happiest entertainment center. That is, it works in spite of the fact that no one device is fully functional unless plugged into one or more partially functioning devices. My current sound system has a component list that reads like Grandpa's nightmares:  
a non-functioning 3-CD changer; non-functioning dual-cassette deck, a working tuner (no antenna), non-functioning volume control, a secondary device with non functioning cassettes, working AUX input, a second working tuner (no lcd to see the station numbers)...
 Frankly, it shouldn't work at all. Not only does it work (more or less), but it  has  a working turntable. Patched into a bunch of other devices. Audiophile? Uh, no, not the high-end kind anyway.

I won't begin to explain the intricacies of getting pictures and sound out of the television-like device, or how many components wire together. 

Today, I'm all about the TURNTABLE. I've been listening to vinyl, reminiscing about warm days next to the stereo from outer space.

Now I'm just wishing I'd used those old Mary Poppins records as frisbees back in college. Because now, I'm cursed with having to listen to that after a side of Genesis or the Beach Boys.

In honor of the upcoming "RECORD STORE DAY" on April 16th, Amoeba Music (formerly Amoeba RECORDS), is hosting a contest giveaway:

Contest ends 4/30/2011. I make no endorsements, just passing along the link to those who still enjoy vinyl.

Monday, March 28, 2011

SF Murals - 24th & Florida

This image above is shown on Google.Maps for the intersection of 24th & Florida Streets in SF. But if you were at this very intersection just last Thursday, in the pouring rain, you would have seen  this cool thunderbird.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

SF Murals - 24th & Bryant

It seemed surreal to discover this during a wet-out in SF. It's new and the group Galleria de la Raza takes credit.

Hydroplaning, drifting, buffeted by winds
Walls of water, freeways flooded, puddles wide & deep 

An ornery spring squall
Makes a trip to SF worth it all.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


At an art museum recently, an 8-year old told me--rather definitively--that, "It looks better if you stand back. You can really see it." We stood really close and then backed up slowly. Sure enough, the definition and detail came out the further back we stood. My fascination with sculpture and mural art is a little bit confounded in this way. It's hard to photograph wall-scapes, and capturing the essence of sky and sculpture with a camera is a challenge for a better photographer than I. But that hasn't stopped me. Getting in close for those detail shots, zooming out showing the whole.

This is a great example (read more at Oddity Central) of art that you have to stand back to view properly. Waaay back.

This dimensional sculpture, created by Michael Kalish, is entitled, reALIze, in honor of Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay), World Champion Heavyweight Boxer. It's one of those things that you have to stand back to appreciate. This view, well, it's hard to tell that there is any sort of representational image. But when you stand back, you see that all those hanging black and white sacs together form a huge portrait, all the more stunning because the medium is punching bags. Yep, punching bags!

Made up of 1,300 raindrop-shaped punching bags, 6.5 miles of stainless steel cable and 2,500 pounds of aluminum pipe, reALIze is a monumental 22-foot-high tribute to one of the world’s greatest boxing icons. The coolest thing about this thing is that if you look at it from any side it looks like a whirlwind of hanging punching bags, but if you look at it from a certain point, in the front, you’ll see a clear portrait of Muhammad Ali.                   --Oddity Central
I was sorry to have missed this in LA on my recent trip. Apparently, it will be unveiled March 25th, 2011 at Nokia Plaza in Los Angeles, and Ali himself is rumored to make an appearance and hang the last bag.

You'll want to check out these two cool videos about this sculpture:
1), and
2) at Kalish's page


Sorry, I couldn't resist the attention grabber that sexual innuendo brings. Drag your mind out of the gutter, this is still a blog about art-minded topics.
Maybe it's that random serendipity you can get so easily on the web. Surfing presents many opportunities for distraction, and research can be boggled by a common word.  Search engines ruled by advertising, rather than utility, are the norm. We all know about finding the things you're NOT searching for. So when I found this on "Oddity Central",  I was pretty happy to find something I wasn't searching for. Really.

Please click over to Freshome's article, Drilling Thousands of Screws for Unusual 3D Mural Portraits,
to see the rest of their photos of Myers' screwwork.

Too Cool!

 Andrew Myers creates these portraits using a new medium to give the look and feel of 3-D: screws! 7 to 10,000 of them! I'd also like to see future works that maybe aren't portraits...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SLO: Museum of Art

The San Luis Obispo Art Museum gets big points for being *FREE*. Interestingly, their website gives no  information about the exterior art work shown here. 

This tile mural wraps around two sides of the SLO Art Museum building.

"This mural is a memorial to long term supporter of and active participant with San Luis Obispo County Art Association, Maggie Jorgensen."

The design and grouping by Bob Nichols 1985-1986