Mona Caron’s New Mural, Windows Into the Tenderloin

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Muralist Mona Caron (left) working in the Tenderloin with project manager Lisa Ruth Elliot. Photo: Nick Kasimatis.

I once rode the J-Church in San Francisco with my friend, the muralist Mona Caron. When you ride that train, there’s a brief moment where you can see the tail end of Mona’s first public artwork, the Duboce Bikeway Mural, and as she and I passed we chatted about that project — how she did it, where the funding came from, etc. When the other passengers overheard our conversation, realizing she was the artist behind this epic work, the entire car spontaneously burst into applause.

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A detail from Windows Into the Tenderloin. Photo: Mona Caron.

For the people that live near or pass Mona’s murals on a regular basis, her work is a gift that keeps on giving. In part that’s due to her technical virtuosity, which puts her in the company of the very best of the mural tradition in this or any country. She has a rare mastery of perspective, anatomy, rendering and color that gives her work an undeniable authenticity as art, that makes you stand up and take notice. But I think the real pleasure people have in her murals, and the thing that brings them back to view and enjoy them again and again, is the radical utopian vision that animates her art.

You can see that utopianism in her newest mural, Windows Into the Tenderloin, which Mona will be dedicating at a party Friday afternoon:

MURAL DEDICATION EVENT
Friday, March 5th, 3:30pm
Corner of Jones & Golden Gate
Everyone welcome!

Located on the corner of Jones and Golden Gate in the heart of the Tenderloin, the piece is an honest picture of the neighborhood, created in part through hours of community input, and enlivened by portraits of the local characters that Mona has befriended over the year and a half she has been working on it.

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Photographer unknown.

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Photo: Mona Caron.

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Photo: Mona Caron.

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Photo: Mona Caron.

The finished work uses virtuoso trompe-l’oeil to open windows on the social life of the area, expressing in art the deep social bonds that always exist, even in the most devastated community. Mona doesn’t sugarcoat a tough situation, but she reminds us that in the Tenderloin, just like anywhere else, good things as well as bad things are happening. Crime, drug use and poverty make life more difficult, but social life goes on —people laugh and talk and eat together, raising children and watching out for each other in countless ways.

Elsewhere in the mural, she peels away huge swaths of wall to reveal the natural ecology that stubbornly refuses to die, even as the urban environment masks it, paves it over.

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Photo: Mona Caron.

Mona’s work is epic, but it calls our attention back to the little details, the small signs that life continues, refusing to be crushed or defeated, even in the face of poverty, urban decay, racism, environmental degradation. We can call that vision utopian, but it’s also just a fact, a truth that we all know but that is so rarely spoken aloud.

Thanks, Mona, for this great gift to our city and the world!

Check out more of Mona’s amazing murals and artwork on her website: monacaron.com.

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