Art

Sunset Artists Continue to be Creative as They Fight for Survival

By Noma Faingold

“My career was going up and boom!” – Nathalie Fabri, painter.

These are uncertain – if not desperate – times for so many people, including Sunset District artists, because of the mandated citywide stay-at-home order, implemented on March 17. How are artists coping with the new normal  emotionally, physically and financially? Unsurprisingly, they are all finding creative ways to survive and stay productive.

“To Wake the Dead” by Marci Washington. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 44” x 30”. Image courtesy of Rena Bransten.

Marci Washington

“I’m waiting for this painting to dry so I can continue working on it,” Marci Washington, 40, a goth-style watercolorist, said with excitement from her home studio in the Outer Sunset. “I am super lucky I have a studio in my house. Right now, that’s amazing.”

The Bay Area native, who has an undergraduate degree and a master of fine arts degree from California College of the Arts, got an early start on self-quarantine. On March 11, the two classes she was teaching at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) were forced to end a day early. 

“Plus, I have an autoimmune disease and decided to err on the side of caution,” Washington said.

She and her UCSC art department colleagues are in the process of devising ways to teach art online next semester, which for her begins on March 30. She has created a private blog for students with video demos. She is also planning to start a Flickr group so her students can critique each other’s work and have weekly check-ins. 

“This has been a big learning curve for me,” Washington said.

Most of her income is generated by her paintings (she is represented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in the Dogpatch neighborhood). She creates large-scale, intricate works, which she calls “creepy and fun.” Washington is not that worried about her finances … yet. 

“I have some savings,” she said. “We’ll see how that goes. I have the panic down to a mild roar.”

Aside from painting, Washington, who lives with her boyfriend and a roommate, has been gardening in her back yard to keep busy. 

“Gardening and painting calm me down,” she said.

As Washington was completing one painting called “The Portal,” she was already carefully planning the next one. 

“It’s going to be really spooky,” she said. “There’s going to be floating bats, snakes, cats, a floating vampire head and a girl in a trance. The cats and snakes will be allies.”

To see her work, visit Marciwashington.com, renabranstengallery.com or Instagram at @marciwash.

Nathalie Fabri

Painter Nathalie Fabri, 50, lived all over the world while her father worked for the United Nations. She chose to plant roots in San Francisco 23 years ago, largely because of the evocative 1970s French song, “La Maison Bleue,” by Maxime Le Forestier, about a house in the Castro. 

“It was a blue house where all these hippies lived,” she said. “That was the exact environment I wanted to live in.” 

Before settling in San Francisco, Fabri followed the Grateful Dead for a couple of years in a van with a boyfriend.

The single mother, who specializes in colorful urban landscapes, currently lives in Midtown Terrace but has often used Sunset District spots as subjects in her work. 

To make ends meet, she teaches art and French privately. Most recently, her career as an artist was experiencing major breakthroughs, including shows at the Drawing Room (an art and event space in the Mission), at Secession Art and Design gallery and boutique in Bernal Heights, as well as having work hung in a cafe. All venues have been shuttered.

“Serenade Me” by Nathalie Fabri. Acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”.

“It was supposed to be a really good couple of months,” Fabri said. “All that potential went out the window.”

She also had just recently moved into a new studio space at Arc Studios and Gallery on Folsom Street, while still paying rent at her old studio in the Mission. 

“I jumped at a great opportunity being accepted there,” she said. “There are so many amazing artists.” 

Fabri has popped into the new studio a couple of times since the shelter-in-place order was implemented and has seen only a few artists in the building. She admits to not feeling that motivated to paint, instead concentrating on how to teach her clients online. She has, however, uncharacteristically started painting a self-portrait. 

“I guess I wanted to record myself now,” she said. 

Fabri is somewhat concerned about her livelihood but is maintaining a positive outlook. 

“I know this is a scary time. But I’m doing exactly what I want to do,” she said. “I get to live in this incredible city and I’m an artist.”

To see her work, visit Fabrikations.com, and Instagram and Facebook as Nathalie Fabri.

Anne Marguerite Herbst and Peter Munks

Partners in life for 30 years, artist Anne Marguerite Herbst and musician Peter Munks have stuck to one ritual everyday since Herbst had to close Far Out Gallery in the Outer Sunset on March 15: long walks on Ocean Beach at sunrise and sunset. 

“That’s our vital,” Munks said. He runs the gallery and performance space with Herbst. “We can wave to our friends and we see all our favorite dogs. That’s our social interaction.”

“Hello From Ocean Beach” by Anne Marguerite Herbst and Peter Munks.

“The big picture is what I call it,” Herbst said.

Munks is down about 20 gigs (both paid and volunteer) being cancelled in March. The guitarist/mandolin player has not wanted to pick up an instrument since the shutdown. He has kept busy by catching up on back issues of the New Yorker magazine, thoroughly reading the New York Times and gardening. 

Herbst, who opened the gallery in the fall of 2015, is heartbroken about having to close the space that the local community has embraced. She has extended the current ceramic/porcelain exhibition, titled “Heating and Plumbing,” of San Francisco conceptual artist Jeanne Friscia to May 17. The next artist, Natalie Craig, who is new to San Francisco, will have her show moved to July for eight weeks.

Since the shelter-at-home announcement, Herbst has been spending a lot of time in her home studio, which is just three blocks from the gallery. She is preparing work for her own annual November exhibition. She is painfully aware that right now people aren’t thinking about buying art. 

“It’s hard to attract a buyer at this time. Even when we reopen, it will be difficult to get people in the mood to buy art,” she said. “Right now, we miss our artists, our friends and the family we created at the gallery.”

To see her work, visit Faroutgallery.com (Jeanne Friscia exhibition is pictured), anneherbst.com, Instagram and Facebook.

Leah Jachimowicz

“The work that I do is already isolating,” said Leah Jachimowicz, 38. She runs Coffee n Cream Press, a company she founded in 2010 specializing in letterpress greeting cards, out of her Outer Sunset home studio. 

“But these restrictions feel mentally unhealthy,” she said. “It’s a shock to the system. The first week was really hard. I was feeling like my livelihood was being taken away after working so hard over the last few years building my business.”

Usually, Jachimowicz sells a lot of her unique cards at pop-up shops, flea markets and other public events, including the Inner Sunset Flea Market and Sunset Mercantile. In previous years, she sold a lot of product before Mother’s Day. 

“All that stuff was not happening,” she said.

Artwork by Leah Jachimowicz, Coffee n Cream Press.

Jachimowicz, who has a master of fine arts degree with an emphasis in printmaking from the Academy of Art, still has online outlets to sell her cards and custom invitations, including her website and an Etsy shop. She was supplementing her income as a bartender three to four shifts a month, which is also not happening.

The San Jose native lives in a house owned by her family with three roommates. They have all been laid off. She is trying to maintain a creative flow, which starts with hand drawings and what she calls “sassy and sarcastic” messages. She has plenty of inventory, but declared “I will make cards for these times.”

To see her work, visit coffeencreampress.com, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Luca Antonucci

“I’m doing alright mentally,” said Luca Antonucci, a 37-year-old artist and the co-owner of Colpa Press, which publishes esoteric art books, limited edition prints and other unique projects. 

“I live in this world of science fiction, which seems real now,” he said.

The Inner Sunset resident is feeling the financial pinch already because the Los Angeles Art Book Fair, scheduled for April 3-5, was cancelled. 

“We usually have a big push with our new releases to coincide with that event,” Antonucci said. He is one of the organizers of the San Francisco Art Book Fair, July 17-19. Last year the event attracted 12,000 people and 115 exhibitors. On the one hand, the event could be bigger, drawing those who couldn’t attend the L.A. fair. On the other hand, will the SF event be held?

For now, he has enough design work to hold him over. 

“I want to keep those jobs going because I can work from home,” he said. He also teaches one class each at California College of the Arts and the San Francisco Art Institue.

As for his own art, Antonucci, who works with found imagery, photography and collage, names horror film director David Cronenberg as a big influence. No doubt these anxious days will inform his work. 

“I don’t know how much small press publishers can deal with pause,” he said. 

To see his work visit colpapress.com, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and lucaantonucci.com.

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