Murals

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· Allen House, my first mural.
· In the Kitchen, a mural at Hunters Point Shipyard.
· Amateur Artists’ Day, in the lands east of San Francisco.
· Through the Tunnel to Honey Hill, a residential mural project.
· Mural Painting at Cowden Automotive, in a business setting.
· Can You See It From the Moon
· Getting the Word Out
· Ongoing and Upcoming

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Getting the Word Out

An important source of Cowden Automotive advertising is word of mouth from one satisfied customer to another. That's how I found out about the shop. The week after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, my truck broke down in San Francisco. It was raining. Cold autumn dusk. I was staying with a friend on Alamo Square because the Bay Bridge was closed, making the route home to my cottage in Oakland circuitous. The next morning, still in cold rain, we got the truck limping along sufficiently to go downhill, cross Market Street, and chug through SOMA (South of Market Area) to the shop on Folsom near Fifth. The rest, as they say, is history.

Cowden Automotive print advertising has the same sense of humor that pervades the shop on a daily basis. Display ads show a central photo of a small car with staff members standing behind it, leaning out the windows, sitting on the ground in front. "They look like the Waltons," a friend of mine said.

The accompanying text reads, "Cowden Automotive, Queerly the Best. Part of the Gay Community Since 1978."

My friend, Bob Andrews, who introduced me to the shop that rainy day, attributed much of the magic of San Francisco to the fact one can be oneself here, often in a very peaceful and down home way. The City supports us, we agreed.

Bob Andrews - Boba to many people whom he knew - came to San Francisco to live as an out gay man. I came here to live as an artist free from the constraints of my home community, in which artists lived, more or less, in a very close knit group outside the social mainstream. Boba and I sometimes marveled at how our pathways paralleled each other. We also marveled at how many people in San Francisco lived a life that was not individually their own.

"All those men," Boba would say, "saying they came to San Francisco to be themselves, but what they do is parade around the Castro looking like clones of Mark Spitz!"

You can tell by the dated reference that this topic of conversation went on between us for a long time.

"I know," I'd say to Boba. "It's the same in art." I was painting a mural in a commercial kitchen. It was a great job on a sunny day with a fine view of San Francisco Bay out the window. I was a happy camper painting at the top of a rolling ladder with a crow's nest that easily held my supplies.

One of the chefs came into the kitchen and said, "You're not supposed to paint when you're happy! Artists are supposed to paint when they're miserable!"

"Well, I don't paint when I'm miserable," I told him. "I paint when I'm happy."

And that is what I have done at Cowden Automotive.

After the mural was titled ("Can You See It from the Moon") and nearly complete, it was time to spread the word about the Official Opening Party on Saturday August 26, 2000, from 3pm to 7pm. We had music by Professional Help, a tour of the mural, food, drinks, dancing, conversation. I brought some of my sketchbooks and collages that I rarely have the opportunity to display. Children were welcome. Everyone had a wonderful time.

In 2005, the mural was mentioned in the SF Weekly's "Best Of" 2005 issue! Cowden Automotive made the "Best Car Repair" section, and the mural is described in their glowing review of the shop! Now that's getting the word out!

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