One of the beauties of living in weirdo town is that the streets can always surprise you. The other day, I went out for a mushroom taco and came back with a bag of sparkly fabric from an artist collective's yard sale on lower Divisadero. I'm sure something attractive will happen with that bag, but after subsequently stumbling into Scott Hammel's toy art show in Mini Bar (through Jan. 30), I can't help but wonder: what would have happened if my plastic sack was instead a full trash bag of plastic kids toys, cigarette butts, and the odd syringe?
Besides the possibility of contagion, of course. But real talk, even in the heady first days of a blood-borne pathogen, I still wouldn't have come up with stuff this cool. Hammel's art looks like the productions of an adult Sid from Toy Story, if Sid had gotten fabulous and started doing LSD.
Plus, seasonal! The head of a retro plastic elf pokes unsettlingly from a gold wall sconse, teddy bears with guns drip from their ornament hooks and a wreath that I'd hang on my front door in a minute if it wouldn't be covetously snatched by a fellow #24 bus-waiter-forer adorn Mini Bar's back eyrie room like jars of rhinestone-speckled candy. Gleaming light fixtures made from orange prescription pill bottles and a Donald Duck diorama in which he inspects wide-eyed the drug paraphernalia around him. It's all really colorful and delicious and freaky, love.
After picking up aforementioned trash bag 'o' fun on the corner of Jones and Eddy, the photographer-visual artist started to see the urban life cocktail in contained as a metaphor for his own strut through his TL home. “The first piece I created was titled “Living in the Tenderloin,” which featured a tiny hush puppy figurine snuggled in a nest of window glass, cigarette butts, and rusted beads, and nails,” says Hammel in our email exchange about the installation.
“The best describing word for my style and aesthetic would be brazen. This might have something to do with living in the Tenderloin, where being brazen can sometimes help shield me from the oddities of life here,” he confirms. The glue gun art he creates (that ranges from affordable detritus tree ornaments to less-so chaotic balls 'o' toy that drape strands of pearl to the floor below) “helps me find comfort and reliance in a pretty disturbingly creepy place.”
Which, y'know, is high praise for one's own neighborhood -- but it's clear that Hammel has a soft spot for SF's most maligned 'hood. A stunning video clip called My Life in a Day he filmed tracks his own perspective whilst making his merry way through late awakenings, the SF Party store, and aesthetically motivated inspections of the random pieces of street beauty in the neighborhood, like a stand of orange flowers or particularly prettily-bedecked traffic sign.
A nice affirmation of the reason why we all pay out our ass for housing in these parts: these streets give back in a big way.
“Exhibit by Scott Hammel”
Now through Jan. 30
837 Divisadero, SF