A Hard Look

This week’s cover, by artist Calamity Fair, is difficult to take in — but that’s the point.

Of all the critiques hurled at San Francisco street artist fnnch lately, perhaps the most down-the-middle would be “Instagram-able.” It’s the diplomatic turn of phrase that KQED arts and culture writer Rae Alexandra once used to describe the now-ubiquitous-to-a-fault honey bears. They are family friendly, scavenger huntable, and, until recently, relatively inoffensive.

But I’m not here to tell you about fnnch. I’m here to talk about Calamity Fair.

Like the works of fnnch, Calamity Fair’s “Weird Lady” wheat pastes are everywhere in our city. Unlike the works of the aforementioned object of critical derision, Calamity Fair’s collages are gonzo, bug-eyed, brains-out affairs, which seem to be aimed at unsettling the viewer. They aren’t so much something one seeks out on a light-hearted scavenger hunt as they are menacing reminders of the surveillance state… a perpetually humming anxiety… what Hunter S. Thompson might have described as “The Fear.”

We chose Calamity Fair to create this week’s cover art precisely because his work is a bit difficult to look at. As the city continues to grapple with an epidemic of drug overdoses and death — and as San Francisco finds itself with the undesirable badge of being one of the nation’s fentanyl hotspots — SF Weekly Staff Writer Benjamin Schneider takes a hard, uncomfortable look at what this alpha opioid is doing to our streets and our people.

It is a troubling tale. But unless we confront it head on — unless we take the time to truly understand this difficult and powerful drug — we will never make any progress toward reversing its horrendous effects. Let Calamity Fair’s work symbolize the wakeup call that our city needs.

Nick Veronin is the editor of SF Weekly. nveronin@sfweekly.com

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