A mural in Clarion Alley depicting local residents, which drew the ire of the alley’s de-facto curators — and was subsequently painted over by an unknown party — has been now been replaced by a new mural depicting a banana tree flanked by Indonesian mythical gods and texts.
The new mural is called “HO” and it was painted by Indonesian-born artist Nano Warsono. “HO is the first letter in the Javanese alphabet,” the Clarion Alley Mural Project representatives explained in an email. “HO means the beginning of everything; the beginning of being.”
But the “beginning of everything,” it turns out, means the end of something.
The painting of “HO,” in fact, ostensibly puts to rest a month-long saga that began when an out-of-town artist, Alison Oksner, placed her mural in a spot where a building owner had reportedly painted over a Cesar Chavez mural tagged with graffiti. Oksner’s work depicted the likenesses of more than a dozen men and women from the neighborhood. She named the mural Walks of Life.
Although Oksner received permission from the building’s owner, she failed to coordinate with the Clarion Alley Mural Project, CAMP, before doing her work.
And CAMP, to say the least, was not happy.
“She sounds like a self-absorbed burner who happened to be blowing through SF on her way to Burning Man and wanted to paint a mural in Clarion Alley,” CAMP co-director Megan Wilson told Mission Local about Oksner.
“So, regardless of whether she wants to describe her work as being about the community — she clearly has no respect for the community that she is not from and that her need to paint HER mural was more important than actually connecting with the community to get permission,” Wilson added in an email.
The kerfuffle called into question what it necessarily means to be a part of the community. A mural painted by an out-of-towner depicting recognizable locals — but not approved by the alley’s gatekeepers — has given way to an ordained work of art created by an out-of-country artist and depicting complex, metaphysical themes.
The people depicted in Oksner’s mural were, by and large, familiar local faces — such as David Soriano, a musician that has been living in the Mission for more than five decades. And Tyrone Butler, who spent many of his younger years in the neighborhood.
But the artistic merit of Walks of Life or its relevance to the Mission wasn’t the issue. What was at stake, CAMP representatives told us, was that she didn’t follow their rules; they vowed to paint over Oksner’s mural.
Yet before it could, an apparent vigilante spray-painted over the mural sometime between last Thursday evening and the following Friday morning. And now, the disputed wallspace has yet another look.
The new mural, part of the international exchange and residency between artists and organizations from the San Francisco Bay Area and Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is dark and cosmic take on creation.
It depicts a banana tree in its center, which represents “the philosophy that life must be used to its fullest.” On both sides of the tree are gods — barong-like characters named Semar and Togog — represent the beginning of the universe. “Semar represents good and Togog evil — and they are in constant dialogue,” according to CAMP.
There are also four words in English: “Community, respect, generosity, and mindfulness.”