Know Your Street Art: Calm Amidst The Chaos

Is the Mid-Market area around United Nations Plaza best described as “chaotic”? Anyone who has walked near the plaza, along Market near Seventh Street, might use that term, even as the area becomes increasingly connected to the high-priced buildings that are stretching out in all directions.

In January, artist Ursula Xanthe Young hung out across from U.N. Plaza for four days as she painted Calm Amidst The Chaos. Co-commissioned by a gallery that organized a conference at ACT's Strand Theater, which abuts the mural, Calm Amidst The Chaos features giant daisies set against a San Francisco panorama of blues. Blue houses. A blue downtown. A blue Bay Bridge.

“I saw some pretty sad and desperate sights in my four days on that block, and then juxtaposed by the new shiny office buildings — it's a certain kind of chaos,” Young says.

Those swaths of blue were almost a mistake — until Young realized the hues had a physical impact on people who walked by: “I had inadvertently chosen these blue colors, and as soon as the tones started to build I had so many folks respond in the same way to it, telling me that it felt peaceful, calming, meditative and like a breath of fresh air,” she says.

Her art effectively replaces the beautifully surreal Rush Hour that Zio Ziegler, Feral Child, and Cannon Dill first put up in 2012. Anyone who knows Young's work knows that she usually features doe-eyed girls in her art. None can be found in Calm Amidst The Chaos. Instead, what's there is the kind of “flowery, urban fairytale” depiction that is also a fixture of Young's work.

Beyond the blue hues and the title, it's the work's fairytale qualities that really make it a welcome addition to the mid-Market area — even if the “chaos” that Young references also applies to the economic ruptures that are roiling that part of San Francisco and may not subside for a long, long time. — JC

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