On a recent Thursday afternoon, the Academy of Art University fashion journalism program visited San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There was one question that I kept asking my instructor and myself: “Why is this art?”
Let me be honest; I am not an art expert. But I am betting that for many people, it was hard not to question some of the installations presented at the SFMOMA.
“One of the central ideas of modern art is that you can take something that is not necessarily based on technical skill,” said Steven Sucker in one Khan Academy’s video. He was explaining the famous Andy Warhol’s Campbell soups and Marchel Duchamp’s urinal. “But [art] relocates and makes us think about it in a different way.”
The ongoing debate on modern art will always rile people up. I tried to be more open to relating and accepted the fact that these pieces of art take a form that I am not familiar with. Since the interpretation of modern art varies and depends on each person’s idea, I decided to ignore the white wall labels and historical analysis. Below is my analysis – results of long staring, scrutinizing for clues – on the five weirdest things that I saw in SFMOMA.
These two cheap, inflatable flowers brought back my childhood nostalgia: cheerful, bright, and fun. Every time there was a carnival I saw people selling inflatable toys, I always wanted one, but never got one. So, why mirrors? Perhaps, the real meaning here is to connect with your inner child; the period when we were more accepting of the world, and enjoying everything. There is also an immense truth when we reflect back to our early memories; the emotional patterns you learn as a child have a huge impact throughout your life.
I tried not to look at the artist’s name until the very end. Oh shoot, it’s Jeff Koons.’
Jeff Koons, Inflatable Flowers (Short Pink, Tall Purple), 1979
Materials: vinyl, mirrors, acrylic
I had to pretend I am the artist and ask myself, “Why would I make an art piece using used cardboard boxes, a.k.a. trash?” Is it a movement against consumerism or an environmental friendly campaign? This disposable packaging, including staples, tape, tears, and stains represent the image of wear and age.
The artist took advantage of the labels and warnings. The placement of multiple boxes leads our eyes to “ROTATE YOUR STOCK.” There is a cycle for everything and nothing is permanent. Now, it’s time to rotate my attention to the next art object.
Robert Rauschenberg, Rosalie/Red Cheek/Temporary Letter/Stock (Cardboard), 1971
Did someone leave a bag of cat litter in the museum? This is a very realistic sculpture of an everyday object. The text says: “SUPER ABSORBING AND DEODORIZING.” If the metaphorical meaning were to absorb the nasty stench of the world, then I would at-least open the seal. I still can’t figure out why the artist made Fine Fare’s Cat Litter. Probably it is the same reason Andy Warhol made Campbell’s soup.
Robert Gober, Cat Litter, 1990
Materials: plaster, ink, and latex paint
This is a white canvas (period). Somehow this 10 inch square painting became my favorite. After staring at screens all day, this little white art piece gave me a chance to relax my eyes from the bombardment influx of information in the world.
Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1965
Materials: enamel on canvas
Two identical old stuffed animals lie on top of a plain blanket. They look worn out, like a dog’s chew toys. I still don’t get why this is art and that’s okay.
Mike Kelley, Shift, 1990
Materials: blanket and stuffed animals
Have you ever wondered what are those giant hearts in Union Square? Let me explain to you the meaning of those heart-shaped statues and how they become a very important part of San Francisco.
When you walk through Union Square, you can’t help but notice the hearts sculptures at each of the plaza’s four corners. The iconic hearts have become a favorite picture taking spot for tourists. They are not just another city sculpture; those giant statues are part of the “Hearts in San Francisco” fundraising project benefiting The San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. I came to this city eight months ago, and when I passed one of the giant heart sculptures for the first time, the “I left My Heart in San Francisco” song instantly played in my head even though I didn’t know about the story behind it. Nor did I know that Tony Bennett’s ballad inspired the story behind the eye-catching installations. Unlike the “Cows on Parade” campaign, a worldwide exhibit using cow sculpture as an art object, the City By The Bay picked a heart icon to express its acceptance and openness as one of the biggest melting pot in the world.
The annual heart exhibition debuted on Valentine’s Day 2004, and every year San Francisco General Hospital Foundation (SFGHF) picks various established and aspiring artists to create fiberglass sculpture in one of three sizes: large (5′ tall x 5’9″ wide x 3’3″ deep), tabletop (14″ tall x 17″ wide x 8″ deep) to mini (7″ tall x 6″ wide x 2″ deep). Each heart is unique with special distinguishing features. Before being auctioned, the heart statues will be placed on display for the public for three months. According to the SFGHF website, over the years, the “Hearts In San Francisco” project has raised $2 million and its success has lead to another events, such as the Heroes and Hearts annual luncheon and the Hearts After Dark night-time fundraiser at AT&T Park (San Francisco General Hospital Foundation). Together, they have raised more than $13 million for the Foundation.
Currently, there are more than 131 hand-painted sculptures each with different designs in locations around the city and beyond. The most popular one, of course, is the large red heart entitled America’s Greatest City By The Bay painted by the Tony Bennett. The sculpture was one of the first hearts inaugurated in 2004 and installed permanently on the corner of Powell and Post Streets. Just like his song lyrics, Bennett painted a foggy San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge view. We can see Marin County as the green background, white twin peaks view under the blue San Francisco Bay, and one additional little red heart drawn in the center for a final touch. Bennett might not be the best heart painter and his landscape might not be hyper realistic; however, the statue sends a clear message: the vibrant red color combined with The Golden City view symbolizes affection and love of San Francisco.
Another famous piece is Open Heart located at the end of Pier 39. The 6-foot tall burgundy heart is divided with a line of abstract gradation bands of color. Each shade and hue has distinctive thicknesses and complexities. Different shades of pastel colors blend vertically together, directing our eyes to the bolder colors. In a glance, it looks like the reflection of light on the mirror. The sweetness of neutral shades is in contrast with the dark shiny heart, and it makes me think of the reflection of our heart. The artist behind it, Patrick Dintino, is well known for his spectrum painting. His mother had open-heart surgery that saved her life, which was the inspiration behind his work. “The important thing to remember about the color selections is that no two colors are exactly the same, just like the infinite diversity of life,” explained Dintito on Pier 39’s website. “Open Heart represents the larger idea of love and understanding self-concept—of opening our hearts and seeing what’s inside, what makes us tick” (Dintito).
My personal favorite of the 2016 art pieces is the tabletop heart sculpture “Love Wins” by Laura Lineback. Lineback’s father died of a heart attack, that’s why SFGHF cause is very special to her. At the same time she wants to show her support to LGBTQ community; the heart piece is covered with melted rainbow paints, the color of gay pride flag color. The heart is divided into six stripes of red, orange, yellow, dark blue, and dark violet, just like the 1979 version of the rainbow flag that embodies vibrant diversity. Paints are dripping down like tears, crying for both LGBTQ struggle and celebration. This is not the first time for Lineback to participate in the “Hearts in San Francisco” Project. In 2015 she turned one of the Large Heart Sculptures into a shiny chrome mirror, which helped to raise $75,000 for SFGHF (Laura Lineback Website).
Unfortunately, just like every love story, many end up with broken hearts. Some heart statues were damaged by vandalism. On April last year for example, an unknown suspect carved random initials on the Wild Poppies in the Twilight Rain sculpture. The act was recorded in South San Francisco Conference Center surveillance camera. The vivid cobalt blue art piece was ornamented with white poppies silhouette paintings, giving a clean and modern feeling. The outcome shares resemblance with paper cuts art, like the White on Black by Hans Christian Andersen. The statue was made by artist Shannon Amidon in 2013, and donated to the city by Genentech, a biotech company (City of San Francisco California Website). It was a dreadful shame, so please don’t be a heartbreaker.
If you want to get to know San Francisco, I challenge you to do the “Hearts in San Francisco” scavenger hunt since the majority of the hearts can be spotted in the popular areas of the city, including the Embarcadero, AT&T Park, City Hall, Lyon Street Steps, and Golden Gate Park. Just stroll down the beautiful streets of the city while seeking out the heart sculptures and let art be your guide as you find your heart in San Francisco. Trust me, you will fall in love with this city and be ready to leave your heart in San Francisco.
"Hearts in SF - San Francisco General Hospital Foundation." San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
"Laura Lineback." Laura Lineback. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
"Open Heart" - PIER 39 San Francisco." PIER 39 San Francisco. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
"Wild Poppies in the Twilight Rain | South San Francisco - Official Website." Wild Poppies in the Twilight Rain | South San Francisco - Official Website. Web. 12 May 2016.
THRIFT SHOPPING: ONE MAN'S TRASH IS ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURE
“I'm gonna pop some tags
Only got twenty dollars in my pocket
I'm hunting, looking for a come-up
This is fucking awesome
I wear your granddad's clothes
I look incredible
I'm in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road”
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
San Francisco, the home base for “normcore”, is also the world headquarters for thrifters. It is the ultimate hunting ground for the buyers and sellers who are looking for resale shops bargains. Thrift shopping is a longstanding tradition in United States, especially in San Francisco, where you’ll find some of the best thrift stores and outlets in the country. People take advantage of some unique finds at a bargain. Buying the latest trend from a retail shop probably is the easiest option − but give yourself a chance to answer these questions about thrift shopping: How much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else? And how much more fun can you have by seeking cool unusual treats?
Below is a list of San Francisco’s most stellar thrift, vintage and used clothing stores. Whether you are a new or connoisseur thrifter, there is always more sartorial savvy to explore in thrift culture. The lust for tarnished treasures, coupled with the thrill of the hunt – scoring someone else’s throwaway for a dime − is part of the adventure. S.F. is ripped with the coveted thrift store. However for the best luck, you’ll need to know where to go. From famous Mission bases to the Haight treasure racks, here are 10 thrift stores worth digging through:
Community Thrift might not have the biggest clothing selection, but it has a great array of shoes, accessories, books, records, arts, electronics, CDs, and furniture. Every product is well-organized in the cool vibe interior; hunting for deals is part of the fun. The book section is a definite dream come true for book lovers; hundreds are organized by genres, sold for ultra cheap prices, starting at 50¢. They also sell vintage vinyl records for only 25¢ each. All of the items come from donations; that’s why the prices are reasonably cheap. The best part is: all of the revenue from purchases actually benefits local charities.
The clothes range from rare vintage to modern retail, they are trendy and worth your time to browse. One thing missing from this store is the fitting room, so dress accordingly, and be prepared to try on clothes in the aisle. Keep in mind that every Monday, Community Thrift Store has a 50% off sale — just about as good as it gets as far as thrift stores in the city go.
Community Thrift Store, 623 Valencia St; (415) 861-4910
Hours: 10am – 6:30pm
Goods by donation only
Top find: Vintage red wool maxi winter coat, $18
Thrift Town is massive! It has a very broad selection of merchandise, from clothes to furniture. The treasure hunter definitely will love this store. The clothes are extremely well-organized based on categories and sizes. Make sure to check out the book and DVD selection; their stock can compete with small bookstores. They also have amazing furniture, much is vintage and in good condition. Parents will love this thrift shop because it offers many children clothes and toys.
Thrift Town’s prices are way better than average thrift shops since all the stuff is donated. Even though their stock changes daily, the clothes are sort of outdated. You definitely will need time to browse the items one by one in order to find fashionable wear, which they do have. Get ready for your scavenger hunt adventure, if you decide to shop at this store.
Thrift Town, 2101 Mission Street; (415) 861-1132
Hours: 9am – 8pm
Goods by donation only
Top find: Vintage lace blouse, $3.99
Nestled amongst quaint boutiques in the Valencia neighborhood, Painted Bird is a cute little store with reasonable prices for vintage. It has a solid collection including antique outerwears, vintage dresses, denim essentials and cool t-shirts that definitely warrants a look. The boutique also sells beautiful antique looking jewelry. The selection is slightly limited due to the small size of the store, but they typically have at least one or two treasures just waiting to be found. The shop assistant is very friendly, and knowledgeable about items and sizes. Painted bird also buys from public. However, given the high quality of their goods on sale, don’t be surprised if they pass on your clothing.
Painted Bird, 1360 Valencia Street, (415) 401-7027
Hours: 12pm - 8pm
Buy-Sell-Trade clothing: 30% cash or 50% trade
Top find: Bohemian Necklace, $28
Only $38 for a Christian Dior blouse? It is true! Located on the famous thrift mecca, Haight Street, Wasteland is the place to go to when you want to get a good deal for gently-used designer brands. This store also has various unique vintage selections. You can score your favorite classic Chanel bags or Manolo Blahnik shoes here. Don’t forget to take a look at their wonderful shoe section; the footwear is in a good condition. Even though they are second-hand, the garments are very in the moment. Wasteland’s perfectly curated selection may inspire you to create your authentic style every time you shop.
With it’s cozy wooden interior, Wasteland on Haight has a fresh, warm and unique feeling. However, they don’t separate the merchandise by size. The worst thing that you can do in a store like Wasteland is to be rushed: you need to make sure that you have at least 40 minutes to go through everything. This is the place for splurging on a signature piece. Your San Francisco thrifting experience wouldn’t be complete without a stop by Wasteland.
Wasteland, 1660 Haight Street; (415) 863-3150
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Buy-Sell-Trade clothing: 35% cash or 50% trade
Top Find: Zara black leather ankle-boots, $38
Mission Thrift is not your typical thrift store. There are a lot of outrageous things here – costumes, wigs, and 80s galore. Granted, they don’t have high-end vintage, but you can get some good quality second-hand clothes here. This is also the place to go if you are looking to put together a unique costume, or the one-hit-wonder party gear. The thrift scene in the Mission is pretty crowded; the aisles are wide enough to fit only one person, and the single changing room often gets a line. Mission Thrift’s pricing is a little bit more than other stores, but if you have few extra bucks to spare, then it’s worth it.
Mission Thrift, 2330 Mission Street; (415) 821-9560
Hours: 11am - 7pm
Doesn’t buy from public. Clothing purchased from random sources
Top find: Black lace mask, $5
Goodwill is stocked with color-coordinated clothes, and random items. You might get overwhelmed with the pile of outdated used clothes, but you can definitely find some great steals for next-to-nothing. How about a $7 Tommy Hilfiger coat? Goodwill maybe is not your best bet if you have a high-end designer taste, but it’s worth digging through because once in a while you will find a real gem. This is the correct thrift store for women who love to wear staple pieces. The book, electronic, art and furniture sections are also decent.
Unlike the other thrift shops, Goodwill is always spacious so you can comfortably take your time browsing the stuff. Sort through every rack, ignore the sizes and flip through everything. Be sure to check out their other bigger stores in the Haight, SoMa, Filmore and Mission Street. And for fashionistas, go to Goodwill Boutique in West Portal for a more upscale thrift store.
Goodwill, 822 Geary St; (415) 922-0405
Hours: 9am- 8pm
Goods by donation only
Top find: Grey Warehouse winter jacket, $7.45
A favorite among students and locals alike, Buffalo Exchange is an explosion of youth and thrift soul. The selection is truly wallet-friendly, making it a must stop for the thrift shop fanatics. Most of the clothes are in sync with the retail current trend for everyday wear. Paying half price for H&M outfits? Why not! If you are looking for a fashion-forward everyday wear, this is definitely the thrift store for you.
The staff members are friendly and fashion conscious, so they can be very helpful during your shopping experience. However, the store is not spacious, so you’d better plan your visit when it’s not a holiday season. If you are a vintage lover, check thevintagebuffalo.com; it’s where they primarily sell the rare vintage one of a kind piece. Buffalo Exchange also has another outlet on Valencia Street.
Buffalo Exchange, 1555 Haight Street; (415) 431-7733
Hours: 11am – 8pm
Buy-Sell-Trade clothing: 30% cash or 50% trade
Top find: H&M blue suede cardigan, $6.99
Smack in the middle of Valencia, Out of the Closet offers clothes for men and women at reasonable prices. You can get pretty good deals on the discounted items with colored tags. The apparel at this thrift store is less vintage and more mainstream. Don’t forget to scroll the menswear shirt rack! The selection varies by season, a surprising amount of GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, NY & Co and other fast fashion bargains. Benefiting AIDS Healthcare foundation, you can also get free HIV testing plus free condoms from Out of The Closet. The place itself is clean and organized. You might as well visit their other stores on Folsom and Church Street.
Out of The Closet, 1498 Polk Street; (415) 771-1503
Hours: 10am – 7pm
Goods by donation only
Top find: Banana Republic buttoned down men’s shirts, $17
If you are looking for well-constructed vintage, swing by Town School Clothes Closet for an eclectic collection of clothing and accessories. This store might be small, but it houses an excellent array of unique designer pieces. You can find a lot of vintage hats and purses here. The beautiful rustic housewares are carefully selected; they are pricey but perfect for distinctive artsy decorations. Town School Clothes Closet relies on high quality donations from the upper community. The purpose of this upscale retail shop is to aid the tuition assistance program at the Town School for Boys.
This might not be the most favorite place for teenagers since the fashion styles tend to be for older generation. However, youngsters would still love the $1.75 t-shirt rack at the back of the store. Expect to pay a pretty penny, more than most thrift on the list, for the head-turning vintage designer wear.
Town School Closed Closet, 1830 Polk Street; (415) 929-8019
Goods by donation only
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm, Sunday 12pm- 5pm
Top find: Issey Miyake leather top, $62.5
Crossroads Trading Co. is filled with the constantly changing in-style and on-trend fast fashion discards from retail brands such as Forever 21 and H&M. The chain second-hand stores are the best for you who want to buy the latest fashion for a cheaper price. The recycled fashion is gently used, the bags are fashionable, and the denim rack is a must see. Look at the top of the wall if you want to buy more expensive designer wear. The store also has the most up-to-date menswear selection. If you are in the mood for closet spring-cleaning, Crossroads is one of your best options to sell your apparel and accessories. You might want to check other Crossroads stores in the Fillmore, Market, Castro, and Irving Street for bigger selections; each filled with the clothes you want at prices you can’t resist.
Crossroads Trading Co. 1519 Haight Street; (415) 355-0555Hours: 11am-8pm
Buy-Sell-Trade clothing: 35% cash or 50% trade
Top find: True Religion boyfriend jeans, $37