Wheat-Pasting the Hindu Pantheon

559 Hayes St. and 588 Haight St.

The Mitchell Brothers' skin house on O'Farrell Street has an “anything goes” history of pay-to-play lasciviousness. As a night manager there, John Vochatzer has seen it all, and his new artwork on the back wall of the theater — which takes up a corner of Polk and Olive streets — is also “anything goes.” On the far left, almost two stories tall, is a four-armed Hindu goddess with bloodshot eyes, see-through midsection (complete with ribs and blood passages), and the hairy legs of a monkey god, sitting Lotus-like on a reptile. Fish float above her in the sky, connected to three other giant figures, smaller men in togas, an Earth-like planet, and myriad plants and buildings that complete the work's otherworldly feel.

Vochatzer, 30, who studied film at the Academy of Art University a decade ago and now does collage art, says, “When I was making it, I had the business and what kind of place it is in mind, but any allusions to it are obscure. It's a play off what I've been doing. My boss gave me the opportunity to pretty much do whatever I wanted for a mural.”

Vochatzer finished the work the first week of May — though not without incident. On the first day, a crazed man ripped a collaged section from the wall. After that, Vochatzer hired two friends to guard the work at night, with Vochatzer there himself from dawn to dusk. The intersection of Olive and Polk streets is peopled by drug users and homeless people. “We needed to guard the wall 24-7 until we got sealant on it,” Vochatzer says. He described the experience as “intense.”

Artist D Young V helped Vochatzer plan the wheat-pasting of the collaged figures. “I couldn't have done any of this without him,” Vochatzer says. “He's one of my favorite S.F. street artists.”

As Vochatzer stood in front of the mural, a woman high on drugs walked by, asking anyone who would listen for crack cocaine. The goddess on the far left of Vochatzer's work is Saraswati, who represents knowledge, music, and the arts. Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, is also on the wall. Shiva, it is said, can destroy lives and also pretensions.

Vochatzer says he loves working at the theater. “The thing that has always drawn me to the O'Farrell Theatre is that it has always had a rich history of associating with artists and other eccentric weird types,” Vochatzer says. “I fit in. And it's pretty cool to walk into work and walk into the upstairs hallway and see a drawing by Robert Crumb on the wall, and to hear stories from my boss about Hunter Thompson acting crazy there in the '80s.” Jonathan Curiel

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