What is the theme for Salon 2023?

The Nature and Culture of San Francisco


To my Salon Participants:
San Francisco is city of great beauty, with a stunning natural setting, rich and diverse cultural history. The bay, the hills, the Pacific fog, the trees and wildlife make this a beautiful place.  It is a boom-and-bust town filled with art and architecture, scofflaws and innovators. The Gold Rush, the earthquakes, the fires, the famous, and the homeless.  Iconic bridges, world-changing innovation, celebrated counter culture.  
What is connecting all of this?  I don't have a word for it. 
Instead I will share images and aspects of the NAUTURE and CULTURE of San Francisco,  my beloved home city,  to inspire you!
Do your finest work. 
Bring your masterpiece to San Francisco. 
Golden Gate Bridge built 1937 Bridges Bridges are often symbols of connection, transition, communication, union.

Easily the most beautiful bridge in the world,the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937 and is painted "International Orange" an iconic vermilion hue chosen to make it visible in the fog. Lesser known but so important to us is the Bay Bridge, built in 1936, painted silver,  connecting the city to the mainland through Treasure Island.

Bay Bridge built 1936

Is there a bridge near your home that inspires you?
The Bay Bridge with its light installation "Bay Lights"

The Fog 

Near the ocean, it is common to have mist coming over the city. San Francisco fog a big part of our lives. The fog may creep in gently at night and slowly fill the City. Or it may arrive with drama and wind. The fog is part of the landscape, the ecosystem, and the culture of San Francisco. 

Pier 7 of the Embarcadero on a beautiful summer day.

Monterey Cypress trees in Golden Gate Park - these trees may only survive along foggy coastal areas.
Fog covers the bay, photo by JJ Meeks

 Fun facts about Fog!


Hills! There are 42 hills in San Francisco, including Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Potrero Hill... This makes for a lot of steep streets and stairways, inspiring skateboarding, urban hiking, and great paintings! 
stairs cut into the sidewalk
California Street has a cable car to help you up the hill

San Francisco: 24th Street Intersection, Wayne Thiebaud, 1977

Victorian Architecture

San Francisco was fast-growing city in the 1860s-80s Thousands of houses were built quickly, using lumber from nearby forests filled with enormous Redwood trees. This wood was soft, and easy to mill and carve. The facades of these Victorian homes feature large amounts of applied ornament. Victorian interiors were painted with faux bois, and covered with spectacular patterns of wallpaper and stencils.
In the 1960's and 70's, when these houses were neglected and out of fashion, and many were being torn down, hippies moved into them and painted them in bright colors to celebrate their features, which led to the nickname for Victorian houses: "Painted Ladies".
Painted Ladies on Postcard Row

Haight Ashbury Four Seasons Victorians

A restored Victorian interior with faux bois woodwork and stenciled ornament by Larry Boyce


Starting in the 1950s, San Francisco became a center for free expression, attracting bohemians, artists, musicians, and writers to the city. Throughout the 60s, counter-culture was celebrated with music, color, free love, and anti-war protests. Rock bands and Hippies had transformed the Haight Ashbury neighborhood and the Summer of Love spread its message all over the world.
Bob Donlin, Neal Cassady, Ginsberg, Robert LaVinge and Ferlinghetti outside City Lights, San Francisco, California, 1956

Janis Joplin sitting atop her custom painted Porsche, in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
The Beatles illustrated lyrics – Revolution 1968 by Alan Aldridge

Burning Man. Now a culture of its own.   photo from 2001

Beaux Arts Architecture

At the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the school of design emphasized composition and symmetry based on Greek and Roman models. Many prominent San Francisco Bay Area-based architects studied at this famed institution and brought the style to San Francisco, where it became the architectural style of choice for important civic buildings.

San Francisco City Hall interior, 1915
Garden Court, Palace Hotel  1909

Ferry Building, 1898

Interior, United States Post Office and Courthouse, 1905

The Trees

When you come to Northern California you can see the most remarkable trees. 
Redwood trees are the tallest living things on the Earth. They can be found only in coast areas of a particular climate. 
Oak trees in California grow in a strange particular shape because of droughts and fires. 
Monterey Cypress trees cling to rocks along the coast, and require salty air and fog to survive.
Enormous redwood trees in Muir Woods

The tallest living things on earth Redwood trees create numerous micro-climates along their 115 meters of height

California Live oak does not grow tall or straight

A tangle of California Oak trees
Monterey Cypress sculpted by wind and fog
Monterey Cypress allée at sunset


San Francisco's famous Chinatown is the oldest in North America and is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. In the 1850s, Chinese pioneers began immigrating in large numbers to San Francisco, initially drawn by the California Gold Rush and the building of the railroads. Now, Chinese-American people make up over 30% of the population of San Francisco.
Chinatown was rebuilt after the 1906 Earthquake and fire, designed by local architects, using elements of Asian architecture that would appeal to people as a tourist attraction.

The EastWest Bank in Chinatown, was originally built as the Telephone Exchange in 1909. Each operator was required to speak English and five dialects of Chinese.

lanterns stretching over the streets in Chinatown during holidays

The famous Dragon street lights of Chinatown: painted in traditional Chinese colors of red, gold and green, are composed of a cast-iron hexagonal base supporting a lotus and bamboo shaft surmounted with two cast-aluminum dragons below a pagoda lantern with bells and topped by a stylized hexagonal red roof. Designed by W D’Arcy Ryan, who also designed the "Path of Gold" streetlights along Market Street.

Grant Street in Chinatown, San Francisco. In the 1920s-1960s this area was - and is-  famous for its nightlife. 


A cynical private detective, a femme fatale, and a dark and foggy night. San Francisco is the perfect setting for some midcentury mystery. Goths and movie fans, may I suggest:  Film Noir.
Humphry Bogart as detective Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (1941) - a witty crime thriller by San Francisco author Dashiell Hammett, "the dean of the 'hard-boiled' school of detective fiction." (1930)  The Maltese Falcon is widely considered the first major movie to be labeled "film noir" 
Dark Passage (1947) stars  Bogart and Bacall and San Francisco
Chinatown is the perfect setting for mystery films.

The photography of the late San Francisco artist Fred Lyon paid tribute to film noir, as well as influenced it

Film Noir in technicolor! Vertigo (1958) by Alfred Hitchcock, sets a classic noir mystery in San Francisco, and adding a layer of color symbolism to its plot.