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On Vanishing Drag Queens

January 7, 2010

San Francisco's nooks and crannies are full of unusual and often beautifully-rendered bits of street art. The trouble is, even the loveliest bits don't seem to have a long shelf life.

Around Thanksgiving last year, a makeshift ply-board wall around a building site on Market Street near Octavia Boulevard caught my eye with its detailed and colorful rendering of six drag queens. I took a picture of it with my iPhone. (See image on the left). The New York Times published the picture on its Bay Area blog page and readers were asked to identify the drag queens depicted by the mystery artist's hand.

Less than a couple of months have passed since I took the picture and the drag queens have disappeared from view. (See image on right, which I took this morning.) You can just about make out a bit of Dame Edna's pink coiff in the top left hand corner of the second image, but otherwise it's as if the drag queens had never existed on that wall. I don't know whether someone scratched them out on purpose or whether they just weathered away. I'm guessing the former because it would probably take more than a few weeks for the graffiti to disappear.

I'm sad about it. Those drag queens brightened up an otherwise ugly building site. They made me smile when I passed them, which I did nearly every day. That's the nature of street art though: here today, gone tomorrow. That's one thing that makes street art like theatre.

At least San Francisco artists are constantly creating new, eye-catching works on our local walls. Here's a beautiful rendering by a mystery painter who initials his or her work "TS". The word painted on the bottom in blue type (illegible in this photograph) is "clairvoyance." I wonder what the artist is trying to say here? Maybe he or she knows that it won't be long before this bespectacled, bearded gent, like the drag queens, will disappear.

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