Gasoline and Gold Leaf : Motorcyclists & Art
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It’s Friday night and motorcycles are flocking to a small alleyway near 8th and Harrison. Lights are strung between brick buildings and a well-patina-ed Plymouth Special Deluxe is parked amongst the bikes. It’s the opening celebration for the “I Am This Motorcycle” art show which runs at Heron Arts until March fourth. And for the Bay Area motorcycle community, this is the place to be. It’s an exposition of motorcycle culture that examines how life blurs the line between rider and bike.
Inside the front door, a crowd gathers around a flawless, blue Harley Sportser. It belongs to Jeff “Trophy Boy” Gray, who poses with the bike and his hot rod in a picture hanging nearby. “Everything I own is loud and fast. It’s all about ego,” reads a quote beneath the picture.
Portraits of riders and their bikes line two of the walls. Photographer and exhibition organizer Jean-Phillippe Defaut has been taking portraits of fellow riders for years. “It was three years ago,” says Onder Keskin of the portrait of him and his bike. “So I forgot all about it.”
On a table next to a gas tank wrapped in denim is a gold-leafed engine from a 70s Honda. Artist Lisa Donohoe explains that she was at a junk yard, sourcing motor parts for a music video when she saw an engine and thought: “It would be so cool gold-leafed, taken from these dirty, greasy, loud bits to serene, gold-leafed, reflective — something that’s associated with royalty.” She and Brynn Gelbard spent 120 hours cleaning and resurfacing the broken motor.
Another table features a collection of motorcycle memorabilia set under glass. There’s a Choppers magazine from September, 1976 on which a beautiful brunette leans over a bike with an exposed neck stem plate that reads “Slow uphill, fast downhill” in wavy, psychedelic scrawling. There’s a Clymer’s Motorcycle Magazine from March 1964 and several copies of “Hell’s Angels” by Hunter S. Thompson. There’s even a Mad magazine lampooning Easy Rider into “Sleazy Rider.”
“I’m kinda in love with that Evel Knievel doll,” says Doreen DiSalvo, pointing at the action figure under the glass amongst the magazines and books.
“I used to have that Evel Knievel doll!” Exclaims Pete Surber.
The show also features several unique motorcycles, including Steve Bridmore’s 1967 Norton Atlas motor in an early 70s Dennis Curtis frame. What’s all that mean? “It’s very rare,” reads Bridmore’s quote next to the bike. “Only about four were ever made.”
Another area displays vintage movie posters and Defaut’s pants. Yep, pants that were cut off of him after a motorcycle crash that broke several bones. A Captain America comic is also framed on the wall that reads: “Mission: Stamp out Satan’s Angels!”
If you like art, portraiture, or motorcycles, do yourself a favor and check out the show. Heron Arts is located an old brick firehouse at 7 Heron Street in San Francisco.