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Street artist creates giant ‘honey bears’ in SoMa [Update]

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Neighborhood one step closer to the land of milk and honey

A post shared by fnnch (@fnnch) on

Update: A week later, fnnch has completed his ode to the right to bear arms and bear heads and bear bellies, thus bringing his first large-scale work fully to bear on the side of the Clever building on Mission Street.

Via social media, fnnch told fans that the finished piece—depicting three “honey bears,” one wearing a fireman’s helmet, another an astronaut’s helmet, and a third wielding a giant paintbrush—is in part a political statement and in a comment on education:

The bears were inspired by things children want to be when they grow up, like firefighters, artists and astronauts. [...] The mural is intended to support children and their dreams, regardless of their origin and background. There is an incredible amount of nativism in this country and, to a shocking degree, in this city.

Not everyone had the good fortune to be born in San Francisco, and not everyone had the good fortune to be born in America. While this city and country have many problems, we can at the very least support the future of our country by supporting our children.]

San Francisco street artist fnnch (pronounced “finch”) began posting progress of his latest creations on social media this week: a trio of gigantic “honey bears” on the side of the building at 1263 Mission in SoMa.

And judging from the looks on their faces, the bears are as surprised as anyone else.

In January, fnnch papered SoMa with roughly 450 of his signature honey bear images, visual riffs on the classic ursine honey bottles available in every grocery outlet in America.

That successful overnight escapade was the artist’s protest against San Francisco’s policies that criminalize certain types of street art.

On the other hand, this new piece, which the anonymous Instagram star calls his first large-scale work, is far less clandestine, although the figures of three giant honey bears—including one wearing an astronaut helmet and another in a fire helmet bearing the word “dreamer” and the number 18—are clearly reminiscent of many of his other additions to the neighborhood.

A post shared by fnnch (@fnnch) on

The building at 1263 Market is the home of Clever, an education startup. Clever CEO Tyler Bosemny even got up on the scaffold to help out with some of the paintwork this week.

In the past, fnnch usually left his mark on the city through whimsical diversions added to the city’s visual fabric in secret, like that time in 2016 that he turned the dogwalking stencils in Duboce Park into a kennel of balloon animals, origami corgis, and other canine confabulations.

In his artist’s statement, fnnch poses that his permit-free paintjobs are his way of challenging city environments he perceives as hostile to art:

Public spaces are canvas upon which it is illegal to paint. By putting beautiful art on sidewalks, mailboxes and parks, fnnch forces people to grapple with the idea that they want something illegal to exist. Perhaps the art should stay, and there should be a system permitting artistic expression in these spaces.

So, a more traditional large-scale mural is a departure, and will be much more durable and long-lasting addition compared to past fnnch fare, which was inevitably painted over or discarded by city workers.

The curious can keep tabs on the mural’s progress via the artist’s Instagram, or simply pop by the Clever building in person.