How I See San Francisco: Artist Whitney Lynn
San Francisco isn’t known for one cultural activity; it’s known for many. The breadth, depth and diversity of arts and culture disciplines fuels the city's ambiance, mystique and attitude. To help explain why the gravitational pull of San Francisco is so strong, we've enlisted the help of artist Whitney Lynn. A visual artist whose work includes hybrid forms of sculpture, performance, video, photography, drawing and interventions, Whitney's projects have been shown at venues such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the de Young Museum. This is how Whitney sees San Francisco.
Describe Your Perfect Day in San Francisco.
Walking is my favorite way to experience the city, and every hill climbed is rewarded with a view. For me, there’s nothing better than finding a new street to explore and each neighborhood has its own personality– as well as its own microclimate.
What should every visitor to San Francisco do at least once?
Instead of visiting Alcatraz, I recommend taking the ferry to Angel Island, a California State Park rich in both history and natural beauty. You can hike, bike, or eat oysters at the café overlooking the bay, but the real star of the trip is a visit to the Angel Island Immigration Station museum. From 1910 to 1940, it became known as “the Ellis Island of the West” as tens of thousands of immigrants were processed and detained on their journey to live and work in the United States. It’s an important reminder of Asian-American and California history, and well worth a visit.
What’s your favorite place to take a photo?
I take most of my photos in my studio, but my favorite camera in San Francisco has to be the Camera Obscura behind the Cliff House, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Built in the 1940s and originally part of the Playland amusement park , the exterior of the building was renovated in the 50s to appear as a giant camera. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places and the tiny museum houses the original large-scale camera obscura, as well as a small collection of holograms. It’s an ancient technology but a magical experience. Afterward, check out the Sutro Baths, or, for more secluded views, Sutro Heights Park.
Where do you indulge your artistic side in San Francisco?
The San Francisco Art Institute is the oldest art school west of the Mississippi River and it has a storied legacy: Ansel Adams founded the first fine art photography department, Howard Fried created the Performance/Video department (which is now New Genres), and former faculty and alumni include Bruce Nauman, Angela Davis, Karen Finley, Barry McGee, Kehinde Wiley and Paul McCarthy. Visitors to San Francisco can check out current students’ work in the Diego Rivera Gallery while also seeing Rivera’s 1931 mural, “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City.” The school also hosts a robust series of public programs, from exhibitions to free public lectures by international artists.
What’s your favorite event that happens in San Francisco?
Each year the San Francisco Art Institute’s graduating MFA students present their work in an event called “Vernissage”. The venue location changes yearly; past exhibitions have been held at Fort Mason, The Mint, and Phoenix Hotel. Opening night is always packed and over 100 emerging artists present a smorgasbord of new works of painting, sculpture, video, photography, installation, performance and film. Always fun, it’s a celebratory event with a lot of great art to be seen.
Where and what would you choose for your last meal in San Francisco?
A burrito at El Toro (possibly followed by tacos at Cancun).
Which restaurant is still on your list to dine at in San Francisco?
Who do you follow to keep up with San Francisco news?
Although the San Francisco Chronicle is facing the same challenges as all print media, nothing beats a physical paper. For art, Bean Gilsdorf and the team at Daily Serving and Art Practical are doing a great job providing quality reviews and essays on contemporary art and the Bay Area exhibitions.
Any last final advice for travelers in San Francisco?
If you’re in North Beach, don’t miss The Beat Museum, followed by a trip to City Lights. For bibliophiles, in addition to City Lights, you also will want to check out Green Apple Books, The Booksmith, and Dog Eared Books. Oh, and the Books Inc. inside SFO’s Terminal 2 is quite possibly the best airport bookstore in the world.