Know Your Street Art: “Queer Street Art” in the Mission

Painted on the outside wall of an apartment building in the Mission overlooking Brick and Mortar Music Hall, the four men — naked and overweight, armpits and fat-folds on full display — are dancing the dance of their lives. Pedestrians who look up from the intersection of Mission and Duboce can see the undulating men, but it's the drivers traveling atop the nearby Central Freeway who may have the best view of Jeffrey Cheung's street art. The massive portrait is Cheung's contribution to “queer street art” — a genre that Cheung says is too rare, even in San Francisco. “I didn't see a lot of queer street art, and I wanted to see more of it,” says Cheung. “I wanted to make something that people like — something positive.” Cheung, who cites Keith Haring as an influence, has painted other men onto outside walls, but those were illegal — and Cheung got lucky when the landlord of the building at 1716 Mission St. saw his work in a gallery and invited Cheung to paint the wall that faces the freeway. Cheung titled the work Thanks Dad as an homage to his father, who held the ladder for his son to paint the men at the wall's highest point. After Thanks Dad went up in March, Cheung worried that a graffiti artist who also wanted to paint the wall — and was also apparently talking to the landlord — would tag it out of jealousy. “The landlord was going to have some graffiti artist paint the wall, and I think the graffiti artist was really mad that I was painting it instead,” says Cheung, 23, who studied art at UC Santa Cruz and now lives in Oakland. “I thought it would be bombed or tagged over, but it's still there. It's exciting that people see it every day.”

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