A Novel Idea

Stencil artists tell a love story on sidewalks. Read it while you can

According to Howze, a self-proclaimed "certified stencil geek," street stencils emerged as a counterculture movement in 1960s Paris through the Situationist movement. Artists in major cities worldwide began following suit, using stencils as a means to convey political messages. The art form's origins in San Francisco are a little murky. Stencil artist Scott Williams credits punk band the Fuck Ups as among the first to stencil their logo on San Francisco streets from 1979 through the early '80s. Williams, a local art legend who won the 2005 Adaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute, began applying stencils to various media in the 1980s on everything from canvas to cars.

Slowly, the number of stencils increased as graffiti became a part of American pop culture.

"There are stencils on every building. It's temporary, it's anonymous, whimsical, humorous, ironic. It's really an unsung art form," says Ray Morrone, curator of the Space Gallery.

Anonymous stencil artists The Strangers stand over one of their works.
JOE ESKENAZI
Anonymous stencil artists The Strangers stand over one of their works.
Street stencil novella: "She shows up early and waits, leaning against the tennis court fence."
Kieran Ridge & Hiromi Oda
Street stencil novella: "She shows up early and waits, leaning against the tennis court fence."

On June 22, the venue was packed for the Stickers and Stencils show. Artists, 73 to be exact, sprayed their artwork directly on the gallery walls. Morrone hopes to unify local stencil artists and help bring more into the gallery atmosphere.

Not everyone in town, though, is a fan of stencilers. Peter Bray is a volunteer in the city's Graffiti Watch program. Every morning before the sun rises, the 48-year-old spends two hours walking through the Mission and painting over graffiti and scraping stickers. This has been his morning ritual for the last two years.

"It's my contribution to improve the morale of the people of my neighborhood," says Bray, who has lived in San Francisco for 27 years. "I'm walking in the Mission 10 times a day and when I'm not barraged by graffiti, I have a much lighter gait in my step."

But Bray doesn't waste his time with sidewalk graffiti. "People walking down the street aren't generally looking at the sidewalk ... the most effective improvement would be to improve the field of vision from a walker's perspective."

That's good news for the creators of "She Loves the Moon." Maybe their handiwork will still be around by the time you read this.

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