SFM #110: USA. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Star Ferry Musing #110:  Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Written by Robert Wu for his family and friends

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San Francisco has many murals.  They are often commissioned by the property owner to dress up their buildings.  Some mural artists are very talented and paint beautiful pictures.

I noticed this one two years ago on the side of a burned-out building.  The man in the mural seemed to be watching the repair work on the upper floors.

Upon closer inspection, I saw the artist employed an unusual technique.  He/she used spray paint to apply hatched arches to form the shading of the facial features, rendering the picture a 3-dimensional appearance.  The thought process in creating this picture and the control of the spray can are expertly done.  I thought this was a masterpiece of mural art.

Recently, I passed by the rebuilt house and was shocked to find the mural missing.  When the building was reconstructed, the wall on which the mural rested was replaced.  I miss that wonderful artistic work.

I saw a well done dragon mural in San Francisco’s Chinatown a few years ago.  It was vibrantly colored with dynamic motions and turbulent clouds and waves.  I enjoyed looking at it when I waited for the bus.

(From web)

Recently, I noticed the bottom half of this mural has been painted over.  Apparently some graffiti “artist” decided to deface this beautiful painting with his scribbled garbage.  The City recognizes the difference between lovely murals and ugly graffiti.  It notifies property owners to eliminate graffiti on their buildings in an effort to keep the City clean and neat.  Since the details of the dragon mural are hard to duplicate, the owner simply applied a coat of paint and covered up the offending graffiti and the wonderful dragon mural as well.

Not all graffiti defacement are permanent.  When a mural on a sidewalk electrical box was covered with graffiti, the people who loved the mural did not give up without a fight.

The graffiti were somehow removed without damaging the underlying painting.  The painting was pristine again.  As San Francisco is hilly, bicyclists try to ride on streets that are level and wiggle in negotiating the slopes.  This mural signifies the left-right wiggles going forward from this location.

The other side of this electrical box showed a street scene with bicyclists.

The view diagonally across the street from the electrical box is a giant mural on the side of a supermarket building.

When viewed from the right position, the mural on the electrical box matched the actual street scene.  The box was rendered almost invisible.  This took creativity and extremely skillful artistic work to accomplish.  This was truly a masterpiece.

A few days ago, I saw technicians perform work on the electrical components under the box.  When they finished, they replaced the mural-covered box with a new, larger plain grey box.  Apparently, the old box was too small to contain the newly installed components and had to be replaced.  This needed repair obliterated one of my favorite sights as I do my daily walks.

We see beautiful things around us everyday.  These three instances emphasize the fleeting nature of beauties in our lives.  They may be here one day to please our senses, but they may be gone the next day by some inadvertent or deliberate actions. While they are here for us to appreciate, we should take full advantage of their existence for they may be gone tomorrow.

Life is brief and beautiful things are even briefer.


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Author: Robert Wu

Two engineering and one business degrees, all from NYU. National president of Organization of Chinese Americans, two terms. General manager of a multinational corporation in China. Retired but still active. Married to a wonderful wife, one son & one daughter.

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