Mona Caron Outdoes Magritte

Mona CaronI was introduced to an artist this morning, Mono Caron. She is a San Francisco artist who specializes in murals. And her work is beautiful. It is expansive and varied even though it maintains a single style. It also combines nature and city life in a way that this very much in keeping with San Francisco. According to her website, “Much of Mona’s public art deals with social history and utopian possibility, and chronicles the street life of its surroundings in the past, present, and imaginary future.” So in addition to everything else, she is politically exciting too. You can see all of this and more on her website. Go check it out!

But there is one aspect of her work that I’m especially interested in: her surrealism. You don’t see this in the painting as a whole, but rather in small bits of it. For example, in one mural, a flower’s stigma becomes a fairy riding a bicycle. In another, cities are embedded inside a streamer covering vegetables—a common motif for her. Another example is her Murale Clownesco, where an acrobat holds up a miniature elephant whose trunk becomes a streamer with two scenes embedded. I’ve avoided the word up until now, but there is no escaping it: magical.

For me, the most exciting of her works is Manifestation Station. It is an addition to an enormous mural, Duboce Bikeway Mural, celebrating the bicycle path that leads riders from the east side of San Francisco (the bay) to the west side (the ocean). And for an added bit of life-art interaction that only murals can provide, the bike path runs along the mural. But that isn’t the greatest part. She was commissioned by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to paint one of their electrical boxes. She did it so that from a specific angle, the image replaced what you are looking it, just like Magritte did in The Human Condition:

Manifestation Station - Mona CaronCourtesy Mono Caron

But this is so much better than Magritte! He focused on the object recreating exactly what it obscured. Caron creates a utopian future. Instead of the Safeway that was and still is there, she’s destroyed it in this alternate universe. All that remains is the one wall that her mural is on. (No utopia without that!) And in place of our corporate oligarchs’ market, there is a farmers’ market. And there is grass and plants and water. This is the highest form of art.

Sadly, what the SFMTA giveth, the SFMTA taketh away. Caron completed the box in the Fall of 2012. But within a year, the agency decided they needed a new box there and so Caron’s masterpiece was moved—destroying much of its contextual beauty. We still have the photograph, of course. And art is no less great because it is ephemeral. (In fact, it might be greater.) But I am so sad that I will never have the experience of standing on the northwest corner of Church and Duboce and seeing the future.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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