The barbed wire that skirts the top of this street art sends a strong message to passers-by: Stay out. The art itself sends a different message: Stay strong amid trying circumstances. A boy in shorts and red shoes dangles from a balloon line that's flying over a large room. He's barely hanging on, hovering over a space with an overturned piano that's cracked at its core. On the far right is a skeletal ghost with colorful, feather-ish loops for a head. The scene is tense, striking, and surreal — as if drawn decades ago by Alfred Hitchcock during a visit to San Francisco.
Artists Krystal Lauk and Ryan Stubbs (who goes by the name Duser) drew the scene in late 2011, and it captures “urban decay and renewal,” Lauk says.
The boy, she says, represents “hope,” even though he seems to have an anguished look on his face. While the only quoted word on the art is “dekay,” and the objects in view — including an old mattress and an old can — suggest the inside of a tenement, Lauk says that she and Stubbs “really wanted it to be open to reinterpretation.”
A nightclub and gallery space next to 1112 Howard invited Lauk and Stubbs to do the work. That space, symbolic of the changing life cycle that Lauk and Stubbs depict, has since disappeared. An independent illustrator and designer, Lauk lived in the Haight at the time the artwork was made. Now she lives a few blocks from it, in the middle of a block that gets much more auto traffic than foot traffic. Still, “People discover it all the time,” Lauk says, adding, “I never expected when I created it that I'd see it all the time, too.” JC