The cover art for this issue is a collage of painted works by Jaz Cameron, a street artist known for operating an open-air art gallery. You may have seen it, scotch taped to the rungs of a metal fence that runs under the freeway on Second Street between Harrison and Bryant streets in South of Market. You can find him there nearly every day, experimenting with his paints and creating something new for passersby to enjoy.
“The bigger picture is to make San Francisco look nice, a good way to open the City after COVID, and to represent the Bay Area, make it look nice,” Cameron says. “And also to preserve the culture. Street art is one of the many things that makes San Francisco San Francisco, like music, poets, things like that.”
Jaz told Street Sheet that he paints over the tape edges and leaves them as part of his pieces, a signature that incorporates the artist’s environment into the work itself. Before he sets up his art for the day, the spot looks like “shit”—his words—but his paintings clearly brighten up the underpass. Inspired by other street artists like Urban Picasso and other folks who he’s seen in the Mission and Union Square, he picked up painting as a way to make money and has been painting full time since 2016.
His works are inspired by BART system maps and city street grids, and while each piece alone is unique and beautiful, the real magic of Cameron’s art is an emergent quality that comes from taking in an array of pieces at once. He says that many of his customers pick up more than one piece, so they can create their own galleries of his work at home. This also helps him sell more of his striking and distinctive art.
Cameron left the traditional workforce to dedicate himself to the arts nearly 15 years ago. Since then he has spent time in an SRO room as well as on the street, and now splits his time between a rented room and an outdoor camp, storing his belongings and artwork in a storage unit.
“In 2009 I quit my job and walked off the plantation, literally. I wanted to enjoy my life and have a meaningful life, in my own way,” he said.
Before turning to painting, he made most of his money as a busker, playing flute, clarinet and saxophone around the city. But he lost his ability to play for long periods of time when a taxi cab ran off the road and sent him to the hospital with a traumatic brain injury. He had been building back up to playing music through classes and physical therapy but recently suffered a major setback when he was randomly attacked on the street from behind. He lost his front teeth in the attack and is currently waiting for implants to resume his musical practice.
You can support Jaz Cameron by purchasing artwork from his gallery or by donating to his GoFundMe page here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-sf-artist-musician-attacked-on-2nd-st