Know Your Street Art: Some Things Never Change

In the last five years, the number of street artists who draw owls or have “owl” in their name has multiplied considerably. So it's not surprising that, around 2013, a giant owl appeared on a building that overlooks one of San Francisco's busiest intersections: Mission and South Van Ness. What is surprising is the owl's condition: depressed eyes, a head that's penetrated by arrows, and a sales tag that lists its price at $1.28. Then there's the saying that hangs over the owl's perch: “Some Things Never Change.” Both funny and macabre, the owl is the brainchild of the Brooklyn artist who calls himself “Mr. Never Satisfied” or, for short, “Never.”

Owls are his trademark. The saying? “That particular message seemed fitting, considering all of the controversy in the surrounding area with regards to gentrification,” he says. But Never, who had street-artist friend Dirty Bandits paint the “Some Things” wording, also says that it “is really intended to be an open-ended phrase. People can take whatever they want out of it. I'm not trying to sell anyone anything so it makes no difference to me what someone thinks.”

It also makes no difference if people compare Never's work to the other street artists who specialize in owls since. “Yeah sure, there are plenty of them who paint owls,” Never says. “In the Bay Area alone there are two other artists who go by 'Ghost Owl' and 'Nite Owl.' Both are nice guys. But, in the end, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!!!!!”

Though Never may come across as arrogant and ultracompetitive, he can also be charming, and he has a way with paint — which is why Never was invited to put up his odd owl by the owner of 42 12th St., whom he met at a public event: “The conversation went something along the lines of 'Hey man, I like your shit, you should paint my shop!' So, I painted his shop, and now we're friends.”

And that owl may be the last one that Never does in San Francisco: “As for how much longer I'm gonna paint owls … I have no idea. I'm not much of a planner.” JC

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