#MadeByWomen Murals in San Francisco

Street Art can tell many stories that would not feature in the average tourist book or tour. That fact is particularly true for the public art created by female muralists and graffiti writers of San Francisco. A walk through some of the most famous street art paintings adds much feeling and information about the city’s current issues – such as gentrification and migration and leaves room for the celebration of local herstory and beauty.

The itinerary highlights women’s murals work in some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in San Francisco (Mission District and Alamo Square).
It is covering a radius of 3.5 miles allowing to walk around the streets and explore the city. Bus/Uber/Lyft is a great alternative between longer distance points.

1. #ClaudiaVive by DJ Agana.
Brava Theater 24th Street alley gate.

 

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The Brava Theater Center, a local institution of empowerment for creative performing women of the city, established in 1986 by arts administrator Ellen Gavin.
On the theater’s 24th Street alley gate, artist DJ Agana (Vanessa Espinoza) created a powerful mural that corresponds with current affairs that trouble the United States – a portrait of Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, a young Guatemalan woman who was shot dead by the border patrol in Texas.

The mural commemorates her story, hashtagged with #ClaudiaVive and #SayHerName – a movement that seeks to raise awareness for black female victims of police brutality in the United States.
On the side of the mural, is painted corn – a symbol for “growing as our culture, cultivating seeds of hope”.
DJ Agana is also designing jewelry and Djing. In her practice as a muralist, she is a member of “Few and Far Women” – an assemblage of female street artists founded in 2011 in Oakland.

2. “Women of the Resistance” by Lucía Gonzalez Ippolito and a team.
Balmy Alley.

 

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“Women of the Resistance” is a marvelous celebration of womanhood, that can be read as an unofficial female hall of fame.
Artist Lucía Gonzalez Ippolito painted this massive mural with the assistance of a majority female crew. It focuses on female revolutionaries and is presenting dozens of women activists of different times and ages, with special attention to local figures such as Cat Brooks, Nancy Pili Hernandez, Nina Parks, and Barbara Lubin.
For further reading about the women portrayed, there is a list of their names on the side of the mural.
Lucía is a Mission District native, Mexican-American artist, teacher, and activist.

3. “Mission Makeover” by Lucía Gonzalez Ippolito and Tirso Araiza.
Balmy Alley.

On the same alley, Lucía Gonzalez Ippolito has created another massive mural with her father, artist Tirso Araiza, and a team of volunteers.
The mural is a site-specific critical view on the gentrification in the area, in the words of the artist:
“I designed the Mission Makeover Mural to depict the two Missions that I am most familiar with; La Mísion of my youth, filled with a vibrant Latino culture, rich in art and history, a place that I have lived my entire life; and the current Madeover Mission, remodelled and revised with designer boutiques, high priced cafes, less Latino immigrant families, and dwindling diversity”.

4. “MaestraPeace” by Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Perez.
Women’s Building, Valencia and 18th St.

 

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Next stop, after walking through the Mission District, is the iconic Women’s Building – displayed on its walls is the five-story “MaestraPeace Mural”.
The mural was painted in 1994 by a team of seven local female muralists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, and Irene Perez.
Calligrapher Olivia Quevedo has contributed the script throughout the piece.

Over one hundred women volunteered to assist in the creation of the painting.
The mural aims to serve as a “standing ovation to women’s liberation”. It features a wide range of inspiring women figures – from the Aztec goddess of the moon Coyolxāuhqui, to Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, painter Georgia O’Keeffe, and many more.
It is one of San Francisco’s largest, oldest and best-known murals.

5. “On Fire” by Erin Feller.
Clarion Alley.

 

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The 2019 mural at Clarion Alley depicts an image of a couple sleeping on a bed, covered by blankets with rugs and pillows around them. The cozy scene is disturbed by a fire burning from one of the corners of the bed.
The 11.5 ft. X 13 ft. mural was created by San Francisco based artist Erin Feller (aka Airy Waters). When she was asked by a follower about the meaning of the fire, she responded: “the fire is too much to explain here! I want you to draw from it whatever meaning comes from you… Eventually I will write about it on my website.”
It’s not the first time she creates a mural here. In 2016 she did a mural with the text “Men! All of You: Put Your Guns Down”.

6. “Animal Attraction” by Amandalynn.
Valencia and 15th St.

 

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This mural is of a more modest scale. It appears on a little doorway on the corner of Valencia and 15th streets – a more intimate public setting for an artwork.
It features a female figure from her back, surrounded by butterflies.
The work represents the artist’s motive of creating works that celebrate femininity in dozens of murals across the city.
Amandalynn is a San Francisco based artist that is inspired by the female form and spirit and depicts “strong, seductive women” with decorative patterning. She created her first mural in 2001.

7. The Market Street Railway by Mona Caron.
300 Church Street.

 

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Mona Caron is a Swiss-born, San Francisco-based artist. She uses photography, illustration, and murals as her means of activism.
This mural is an example of her focus on site-specific work. The 38×12 feet work depicts a view from above on San Francisco’s Market Street, divided into sections that symbolize different times – from the 1920s, through the present and into an imaginary future.
It references in detail various local subcultures and historic moments that are expressed in public spaces. It was completed in 2004 and restored in 2017.

8. “#WhatMusicFeelsLike” by Hueman.
Hickory Alley, between Franklin St and Van Ness Ave.

 

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Walking up Market and Franklin Streets, notice a large scale mural spanned across five buildings.
The ambitious work can be seen from Hickory Alley. It was created by Hueman (Allison Tinati), who grew up in Northern California and developed a unique style of painting that uses colorful combinations of abstract and figurative elements in order to create motion on two-dimensional surfaces.
While working on this mural, titled #WhatMusicFeelsLike, she was accompanied by live music performed by students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, based around the corner from the alley.
The artist was inspired by the phenomenon of synesthesia — the ability to hear, taste, or feel colors.

9. Untitled by Pakayla Rae Biehn.
Alamo Square.

 

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Continuing in the North East direction is Alamo Square, which features an outdoor exhibition of large-scale paintings on boards.
Among the boards is one painted by Pakayla Rae Biehn, a painter, set stylist, and art director, who works between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
It was her first time creating a mural, and she chose to paint a gentle, colorful arrangement of three flowers on a black background.

10. Untitled by Ursula Xanthe Young.
Alamo Square.

 

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Also at the Alamo Square exhibition is a work by Ursula Xanthe Young, an illustrator, painter, and designer with over twenty years of experience.
Ursula is also a part of “Few and Far Women” – an international all-female collective of mural-painters.
In this board mural, she painted a young woman with a tattoo of butterflies, and a raw of typical Victorian houses in the background – most likely a reference to the “Painted Ladies” architectural landmark up the road.

 

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Eclair Bandersnatch is one of the most active stencil artists of the city, also referred to as “San Francisco’s graffiti queen”. She frequently renews her stencils, always sending messages of critical commentary of the contemporary society, like class and gender issues.
Usually, her works appear on sidewalks, but this one is on the wall of Save-More Market.
Here she plays with the repetition that stencil art allows and arranges female figures as if in a kaleidoscope.
She took on the name Bandersnatch from a fictional creature in the writing of Lewis Carroll.

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