For me, the ultimate power of art is its ability to frame the world in such a way that we, the viewers, see the world differently after viewing the art than we had before. Over the past days, I’ve had two wildly different experiences in San Francisco, both of which transformed spaces and transformed the way I saw those spaces and the surrounding world.
The Market Street Prototyping Festival took place for three days all along Market Street in San Francisco. As the name suggests, prototypes for potential public art pieces were erected in groupings, stretching from the waterfront all the way to Van Ness Avenue. The public was asked to experience the prototypes, then to vote via social media on the projects they thought should become permanent fixtures. Some of the work was great, much of it was conceptual and thoughtful, and a lot of it was far more fun than art. But what was exceptional was how these works changed behavior. On a busy street usually used more for getting from someplace to another, strangers stopped and interacted — with the pieces and with each other. A common place was created on this anonymous thoroughfare, transforming unappealing Market Street into lively, smiling, and vibrant Market Street.
On the other end of the spectrum was the Bouquets to Art installation at the De Young Museum. This week-long installation is, interestingly, the museum’s single most popular event every year. Floral designers are invited to create works inspired by works in the museum’s permanent collection, and these elaborate works are displayed near the inspirational piece. I have to admit that it took me a few minutes to truly appreciate what was going on, as at first it struck me as just a bunch of over-the-top floral arrangements. But then I realized two things: this show and these floral designs were forcing me to stop and look at works in the museum which I had never noticed — just as the festival had forced me to stop on Market Street and look around — and through the scavenger-hunt like action of walking throughout the entire museum in order to ‘find’ the next floral design, I was seeing the museum differently.
In addition, there was some truly inspired floral design work. Plumweed Flowers created a piece inspired by Robert Henri’s “Lady in Black with a Spanish Scarf” which managed to be both homage and jumping point to something truly magical.
Fleur to Vie’s tribute to Irving Ramsey Wiles’ “The Sonata” was a tour de force and possessed of a similar passion to the original painting.
This is what art is all about. This is what makes my heart sing and makes me glad that the creative spirit exists, to help us all know that there are other ways in which to view the world and to give us mere mortals a different filter through which to look, if only briefly.