Here is a small detail from the great murals of Coit Tower, San Francisco. A tribute to the firemen of the city, and designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle, or other things more phallic if one prefers, the tower would be merely a tourist attraction were it not for the murals. Created during the Great Depression by a group of local artisits who were, for the most part, friends or students of Diego Rivera, the murals capture the harshness and diversity of American life in stunning panoramas of great proportion.
The first two images below contrast the news of the day with the information that makes fortunes, and the well-heeled who absorb it. The news isn’t happy making but the library provides little joy either, it seems.
The third below, of a family panning for gold, washing clothes and of the daughter(?) sawing an enormous log, probably for cooking, contrasts this sample salt of the earth group with the leisure bound family of gawkers above them who stand near their car taking in the “picturesque” scene, as some who stroll by the murals today still do.
Cars are less a means of transportation than a threat to human life for the masses, it seems and the fourth image–all these shots are but segments of quite large murals–captures the horror of an automobile accident and the carnage it causes.
To the right of it is a man on the dock. He sits looking off to the left, waiting, hoping, expecting? We can’t tell but the large ship behind him is clearly of less interest than something yet to be seen, and perhaps done, something that will transform this world of contrasts and contradictions, misery and privilege. Like him, it seems we’re still waiting.