Whether his canvas is chocolate or cinderblock, San Francisco painter Brian Barneclo has a passion for food — not typical for someone who grew up in Indiana. Two of his recent projects include a mural for the interior of the new “urban rustic” restaurant Nopa and the “Brian Barneclo Collection” for S.F.'s Michael Recchiuti Confections, in which whimsical images of Mission District buildings top exquisite cinnamon malt and raspberry bonbons. On a recent afternoon in his Market Street studio, he's making sketches for possible T-shirts to accompany a friend's book about offal meats. But his newest project, set to begin this week, might be the most important of his life: a 200-foot-by-25-foot wall painting called The Food Chain Mural, to go on the Shotwell Street side of the Mission District grocery store FoodsCo.
Barneclo began his professional career painting commercial signs, a motif that often pops up in his modern, almost hip-hop take on pop art. His paintings are eye candy, and include many little details, from people and creatures to arrows and abstract shapes, to keep the eyes dancing. The Food Chain Mural takes that aesthetic to its zenith, arising out of a combination of planning and spontaneity — there's a rough sketch, but much of the image will come about on the fly. The huge painting is intended to show the choices we have in what we consume, and how much is affected by just one of those selections. But it's not intended as a political statement or a preachy lesson, Barneclo insists; it's really just a neighborhood beautification project.
The idea came about when neighborhood resident Christi Azevedo, an industrial designer who is a fan of Barneclo's work, contacted him about the possibility. She spent the last year obtaining permissions, insurance, and generally holding the project together. Barneclo used to live in the area, so he understands how that location — a gritty street without benefit of the colorful murals seen in other parts of the Mission — could use something positive. He didn't have any problems with the neighborhood, but he had, he admits, “a few [sketchy] moments.”
Barneclo and Azevedo are working with Oakland nonprofit OBUGS to help raise funds (donations can be made through www.brianbarneclo.com/foodchainmural), but the mural, which will take at least five weeks to complete, also needs creative contributions from the community — volunteers, ideas, support, supplies, and, the artist says, love.
“It's really running on heart right now, because we don't have much money,” says Barneclo. “It's like the little engine that could. We need help, but I'll be out there painting no matter what.”