Thursday, 1 August 2013

Oil Painting 6 - The Zoetrope Cafe

Our main walk into town from North Beach (because it was the only route that didn't involve steep inclines) was along buzzing Columbus St, cutting diagonally through the grid structure of San Francisco. Columbus is lined with mainly Italian businesses, cafes, delis and restaurants that spill out onto the pavements. The walk down leads you towards the very impressive and iconic Trans-American Pyramid building looming over the city like one of the ministries in George Orwell's 1984. Big brother also seems to be present here as a siren like a WW2 air raid warning goes off every Tuesday at noon and has done ever since 9/11 followed by a very muffled illegible tanoy message that should say it is a test.

As we are approaching the Trans-America Pyramid another architectural gem pops up on the right of Columbus - The Zoetrope Cafe. A beautiful building with an exciting history. It was in this building that Zoetrope Films was formed, and the editing for classic films such as Apocolypse Now and The Godfather took place here. Francis Ford Coppola now owns the building, he keeps an apartment on the top floor, there are still film editing suites and offices on the middle floors and Coppola's Zoetrope Cafe now runs at street level selling wines from Coppola's vineyard in the Nappa Valley.

Again I made use of the shelter of the large street furniture to sneak in the easel on the busy street and gain a viewpoint that compared the two buildings. I have brought in some dark canopies and lampposts to carve into the sky and help achieve a sense of urban claustrophobia. I talked to a lot of passers by with this piece and felt I had at last scratched the glossy surface of the general American public, with one meeting in particular, with a William Bates, a African American who during a 2 hour intense conversation on the street corner relayed the tensions and frustrations of being a black male in this country. Tensions that had bubbled right to the forefront with the 'not guilty' judgement of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. 2 major protests had happened outside Federal buildings, because of this case, whilst we were in San Francisco. William also informed me of the local poets meetings; San Francisco and North Beach in particular has a rich history of activist poets with Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, the Beat Museum and the City Lights Bookshop on Columbus, and the culture continues today. From William's recommendation we went to a evening poetry reading at a bookshop in Fort Mason. The below sketch is of a utterly brilliant San Franciscan poet of Columbian descent reading at the podium. Thoughts of these regular meet ups to vent frustrations through an art form are refreshing and exciting, which I would like to see more of in the UK.

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