Art purchased by the city from artists during COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, local artists were supported through a special initiative undertaken by the City of San Diego. The city purchased almost 100 works of art for the Civic Art Collection. The initiative was funded by a generous art lover and philanthropist.

An exhibition of this acquired artwork, titled SD PRACTICE, can now be viewed at the San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park, and at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights.

I visited the San Diego Art Institute on Sunday to view their pieces. I noticed some of the artists are widely known, including Hugo Crosthwaite and Mario Torero.

Contemporary art is often provocative: subversive, angry, skeptical, iconoclastic. But many of the pieces I saw conveyed mostly a feeling of loneliness. Which I suppose isn’t surprising. They were created during a pandemic–a time of forced social isolation.

One canvas shows an elderly woman alone at a table set with dinner and cold smartphones. Other works–often with political messages–show people trapped alone behind borders or squares or lattices of drawn lines, or wearing masks, or concealed beneath sheets, or in shadow.

One artist’s tintypes were created with random people on the street. The artist and strangers pose together as if they are family. But the tintypes are very dim like faded dreams. And the momentary “families” weren’t real.

In one piece, an isolating smartphone has been dropped to one side, and two people lean into each other for simple human warmth.

As I walked through the gallery, one plastic chair made to appear gleaming and precious seemed inviting. But it was only one chair.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Two colorful murals on 43rd Street.

I spotted these two very colorful murals while walking down 43rd Street in southeast San Diego. Both contain symbolic elements.

The first, combining Aztec imagery with humor, I saw at 43rd Wash & Wax…

The second mural I discovered at the corner of 43rd Street and Boston Avenue. It includes an image of President Obama paired with what I believe is the Egyptian god Horus as a royal falcon…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Golden bust of Benito Juárez in Chicano Park.

If you walk to the northwest corner of Chicano Park and cross the intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Parkway and Logan Avenue, you’ll see what appears to be a statue on a checkerboard. Move closer and you’ll discover a golden sculpted head on a white pedestal. The bust is of Mexican national hero, Benito Juárez.

A plaque in Spanish at its base begins: “El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz,” which translates into English as: “Respect for the rights of others is peace.” The full quote by Juárez, who is remembered for modernizing Mexico with liberal reforms, is: “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

According to the plaque, the bust was unveiled on June 25, 2005. It appears to have been placed here by Gran Logia Mexico, Americana San Diego California. I believe the organization is a local Mexican Freemasonry group. I can find nothing about this public artwork on the internet.

Another sculpture of Benito Juárez can be found in downtown San Diego’s Pantoja Park.

That less mysterious public art was a gift from Mexico. I once took a photograph of the fine bronze statue and posted it here.

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Businesses board up before Election Day.

This is not a cool sight. Not for those who want to live in a representative democracy. Free to vote for their candidate or party of choice, no matter which side. Free to live without political violence or the threat of violence.

I noticed while walking through downtown San Diego that some businesses are boarding up doors and windows anticipating the possibility of destruction and looting.

No matter the outcome of this year’s election, no matter who is disappointed or who is elated, whether power over others is increased or diminished, may a shared sense of our common humanity prevail.

Birds gather election ballots on a city wall!

On Saturday morning I walked through downtown San Diego’s East Village.

As I headed along Market Street and approached Tenth Avenue, I noticed something interesting on a wall next to the Grocery Outlet parking lot. I had discovered a flock of birds gathering ballots!

The graphic pasted to the wall, which promotes voting in the upcoming general election, was created by Ramzy Masri, a New York based graphic designer, photographer and artist. Click the photograph below and you can more easily read what is written. In a nutshell, the mural is “part of a series inspired by the idea that ‘voting is voice.’ It’s one of five designs for fifty murals currently on view in ten cities across the country…”

The mural is sponsored by the non-partisan Voting Information Center on Facebook, which is found here.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Complex people in a complex city.

The immense complexity of the city and its people is evident in every one of my walks.

A city is like a small slice of the larger human world. Many individuals heading in different directions, or forward together…talking or silently thinking…interacting in the places where they work, rest, shop, live. You see the complexity in the streets signs and the architecture, in restaurant menus and colorful store windows. You see it on the active sidewalks, in styles of dress, facial expressions, postures of ambition or resignation. A city and its people are too complicated to ever adequately describe.

Much of the complexity rises from the ongoing tangle of human desires, predilections, emotions. One thing that seems constant in the world is human yearning. And those yearnings often create tension.

Today I walked around downtown. I came upon a political rally at the County Administration Building. Roused citizens, desiring liberty, were chafing at the slow reopening of society during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. They expressed their reasons. They yearned for individual liberty. But others in our society yearn for collective security. It’s that never-ending political conflict.

As I continued my walk, I turned my eyes upward to see the mysterious, ordered windows where different people work and live. And I looked at the intersecting streets and sidewalks, where separate lives move forward.

All that human complexity makes a city what it is. It also makes every single walk every single day fascinating. And thought-provoking.

Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, when the city seems more lonely and troubled than usual.

He was simply resting in the sun.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

If the above images feel almost like a poem, it was my intention. To read a few philosophical stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

The art of Chicano/a/x printmaking, activism.

A collection of bold contemporary art can now be viewed at the SDSU Downtown Gallery. The exhibition is titled: Chicano/a/x Printmaking: Making Prints and Making History – 50 Years of Art Activism.

The many colorful pieces on display include woodblock prints, serigraphs and lithographs. Most of the artwork was created to provide a voice for Mexican-American communities and promote social change. The images urge Chicano/a/x activism, and include themes such as political struggle, racism, poverty and immigration.

According to the SDSU Downtown Gallery website: “Featuring important historical and contemporary examples of printed works on paper, the exhibition highlights printmaking as one of the oldest, most enduring, and widely used processes for Chicano/a/x artists working from the 1940s to today . . . Artists and groups in the exhibition include Yreina Cervantes, Rupert Garcia, Diane Gamboa, Ester Hernandez, Malaquías Montoya, Victor Ochoa, Self Help Graphics & Art, and Salvador Roberto Torres, among others.”

As I journeyed along each gallery wall, I was struck by the emotional potency of the artwork. There are images that depict cultural pride and strength, and images that powerfully convey human suffering.

In addition to thought-provoking political messages, visitors to the gallery can observe the evolution of printmaking and see how ideas are effectively conveyed and magnified using simple posters. The eye-catching designs and the creativity of these prints should intrigue everyone who loves art.

The exhibition will continue at the SDSU Downtown Gallery through April 5, 2020.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Black life and civil rights in Southern California.

Barbershop, Los Angeles, 1956, Harry Adams. Photographer Harry Adams stands with a young woman in front of his barbershop.
Barbershop, Los Angeles, 1956, Harry Adams. Photographer Harry Adams stands with a young woman in front of his barbershop.

A powerful exhibition recently opened at the San Diego Museum of Art. Black Life: Images of Resistance and Resilience in Southern California features photographs of politicians, activists, athletes and entertainers from the African American community during the second half of the 20th century, a period of struggle to advance civil rights.

Photographers Harry Adams, Guy Crowder and Charles Williams, who worked primarily as freelancers for publications like the Los Angeles Sentinel, California Eagle and Los Angeles Times, recorded people and moments in a community that was rarely covered by the American media. Their photography is natural, emotional and absolutely authentic. As you will see, many of their images are iconic.

Black Life: Images of Resistance and Resilience in Southern California documents important history in the life of our region. The exhibition can be viewed in the San Diego Museum of Art’s free Gallery 14/15, which is located through an unlocked door beside the outdoor sculpture court and Panama 66.

What you see here is just a small fraction of the many photographs on display.

Child Holding Book, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.
Child Holding Book, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.

Muhammad Ali and Stokely Carmichael, Los Angeles, 1974, Guy Crowder. Carmichael is known for coining the term Black Power in 1966.
Muhammad Ali and Stokely Carmichael, Los Angeles, 1974, Guy Crowder. Carmichael is known for coining the term Black Power in 1966.

Marrie Burnett, Los Angeles, 1982, Guy Crowder.
Marrie Burnett, Los Angeles, 1982, Guy Crowder.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, 1958, Harry Adams.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Second Baptist Church, Los Angeles, 1958, Harry Adams.

Baldwin School Integration, Los Angeles, 1962, Charles Williams. The NAACP campaigned to promote school integration.
Baldwin School Integration, Los Angeles, 1962, Charles Williams. The NAACP campaigned to promote school integration.

Protest Car, Los Angeles, 1962, Harry Adams.
Protest Car, Los Angeles, 1962, Harry Adams.

Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge, stars of Carmen Jones, 1954, Charles Williams.
Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge, stars of Carmen Jones, 1954, Charles Williams.

Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, Los Angeles, 1969, Guy Crowder.
Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, Los Angeles, 1969, Guy Crowder.

Dream Girls Cast, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.
Dream Girls Cast, Los Angeles, 1983, Guy Crowder.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Student posters celebrate Freedom of Speech.

Free Speech, Press and Society.
Free Speech, Press and Society.

I was making my way through downtown this morning when I spotted something important that I’d like to blog.

As I walked past the Edward J. Schwartz United States Courthouse, I noticed a new crop of student posters has appeared in the building’s windows. These posters were submitted by local kids for the San Diego County Bar Association’s 2019 Law Week Poster and Video Contest.

The theme this year is Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society.

We the People...
We the People…

Natural Rights. First Amendment.
Natural Rights. First Amendment.

Free As a Bird. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
Free As a Bird. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Freedom. Rights. Responsibility.
Freedom. Rights. Responsibility. May all our voices be heard!

Express your opinion. Peacefully protest or assemble.
Express your opinion. Peacefully protest or assemble.

Liberty requires freedom of expression for everybody.
Liberty requires freedom of expression for everybody.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is vitally important to me. I’m a writer.

If you value individual liberty and a free and open society, its protections are fundamental.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Faces of INSIDE OUT still smile in Chula Vista!

A harsh winter with rain and wind, and an occasional prankster, but dozens of optimistic faces still smile in Chula Vista!

Last weekend, as I walked down H Street east of Fourth Avenue, my eyes were surprised to see a row of large, smiling faces in an alley. They looked out at the world from a long, low wall. I turned into the alley to have a closer look.

What I discovered were faces photographed and turned into public art by the international INSIDE OUT project. INSIDE OUT had come to San Diego’s South Bay in September 2018 to encourage people to express their unique identity and viewpoint, and vote in the upcoming election.

The INSIDE OUT project is the brainchild of an anonymous artist named JR. Large‐format images of individuals in a community are pasted on buildings and along streets. Activist messages are conveyed visually, with personality and a smile!

This global “people’s art project” has achieved enormous reach. By late September 2018 over 260,000 people had participated in 129 countries!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!