Local Legend of The Week: Artist Jeremy Fish
Jeremy in front of his art. Photo courtesy of writer/photographer Illyana Maisonet
Jeremy Fish is an internationally known artist, North Beach resident, and may be appearing in Tim Burton’s next film ‘Big Eyes’ starring Amy Adams. We met at Café Trieste in North Beach, where a constant flow of neighbors, friends, and eccentrics stop by to say hi. Jeremy is dressed head to toe in a custom suit of patterned fabric I can only describe as ‘wood paneling’. It’s a suit you could use to camouflage yourself in a 1970’s living room. His Shades say “playboy” on the frame, and his long beard is in the class of ZZ Top or Rob Zombie. I think to myself, “…this is going to be good”. And Mr. Fish does not disappoint, like his handmade suit from Al’s Attire, he is one of a kind.
If you take a walk through the Grant and Green corridor in North Beach, Jeremy’s work starts to appear before you on street walls, awnings, in restaurants, watering holes and even on vehicles. Jeremy has left an endearing and enduring mark on his neighborhood. Like a ‘paisan’ from the old country, he made deals with his favorite vendors for trade. Instead of asking for cash (or offering ‘protection’) Jeremy gives the local businesses art in exchange for free food or drinks for life. That’s right, the man doesn’t pay for much close to home, he sits back, eats, drinks and admires his handy work on the walls and on his fork. Bellow is a walking guide of just some of Jeremy’s art on the streets of NB, and the venues that will feed him forever…gratis
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At the corner of Grant and Vallejo Streets Jeremy’s ‘California Lives’ sign. Walk a few paces up and notice his awning on Pisto’s at 1310 Grant St.
Walk a little further up Grant st. and notice the Grant & Green Saloon Mural at 1371 Grant Ave, here’s Jeremy talking about how that came to pass:
Around the corner at Tony’s Pizza, 1570 Stockton St. and home to 11 time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani. Jeremy’s Mural with Tony’s design.
Jeremy’s designed the pizza box at Capo’s 641 Vallejo St. and the Golden Boy delivery truck at 542 Green St.
Naked Lunch logo at 504 Broadway, and a neighborhood First Fridays flyer
1994 Jeremy arrives in SF:
After art school (BFA from SF Art Institute) Jeremy started working in a screen printing shop across the street from the Slap Magazine headquarters in SF. Every now again he would drop in and pitch his art to the boys at Thrasher or Juxtapoz all the while designing art for skateboard decks. Meanwhile John Trippe (www.fecalface.com) had begun one of (if not the first) websites devoted strictly to art, that ever existed, and he featured some of Jeremy’s work. Pretty soon Thrasher was asking him to do a t-shirt, Juxtapoz a poster, and he was getting contacted from people all over the world interested in his art.
Jeremy on Upper Playground
“Upper Playground started like 15 years ago, around the same time Fecal Face started. Other than the Luggage Store, 111 Minna, and Adobe Books there wasn’t much underground, completely art driven stuff back then. There weren’t any galleries that sold clothes inspired by their own artists. Now those types of ‘underground’ galleries are everywhere, but Upper-Playground was doing it years before there was any kind of scene like that.”
Robin Williams Collected Jeremy’s original artwork, and tee shirts. Here he is hyping up the crowd during at a SF giants playoffs game in 2010. Like the shirt? Check it out at Upperplayground.com
Jeremy on making adverts for brands like Volkswagon:
“I don’t want to just make a career painting things to hang in a gallery for a certain level of society to see. I much more prefer having a larger reach with my illustrations, if I can win over people who normally don’t give a shit about art. I appreciate that more than getting an art critic to notice.”
Jeremy on the Bunny Statue from Laguna & Haight Streets:
“We filled the inside of it with really heavy metal. I didn’t have permission to put a statue there, we just showed up one afternoon and poured a puddle of liquid nails, drilled some giants holes into it, bolted it, glued it and left it…Three years later The Haight Street Art Center, and The Lower Haight Neighborhood Association used kickstarter to raise the money to build a 10 foot tall bronze version of the Bunny statue.” Jeremy didn’t feel right taking money from the neighborhood for the project, so in lieu of payment he asked to own the statue and has a land grant for that location for the next 75 years. Learning from the best, I made a deal with Jeremy that if I outlived him, I would inherit the Bunny statue after the land grant expired (we have have a legally binding verbal contract). So I got that going for me. One of my grandchildren is going to get a very strange knock on their door in 2089, asking where to put the 10ft tall bronze statue of a bunny.
Jeremy’s favorite things in the city:
Favorit Mural: The Diego Rivera Mural at SFAI
If you could paint any monument in SF: I wish I could get a time machine and go back in time and get a job painting the murals in Coit Tower with those people.
Favorite Politician: Emperor Norton (Listen to him tell you why and also explain why Willie Brown is shady)
Eats: Tony’s Pizza Napolitano
Bar: Zeitgeist– that’s where I met my wife
Favorite Drink: Beer (Listen to which beer. It’s pretty hilarious)
Jeremy’s Movie Role:
Jeremy was hired to paint and help design a set for the new Tim Burton film Big Eyes, based on North Beach Artist Margaret Keane. True to form, when Jeremy was discussing payment with the producer he got them to agree to put him and his wife in the movie. “I’m in the background of this trailer at :25 – :26 sitting at the table in front of my “Black Cat Cafe” sign over Amy Adams right shoulder. She told me I looked very nice that day. My character in the film is supposed to be a “Ferlinghetti” sort of beat poet. This location is one block from my house. Catch Big Eyes this December, starring Amy Adams, Christopher Waltz…and Mr. Fish.
Some of Jeremy’s other amazing outfits:
Photographs provided by Jeremy Fish, Illyanna Maisonet, Upper Playground, Volkswagon, and this writer.