Artist you should know

Illustrating San Francisco : Emily Fromm’s SF is Open Late

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The “Artist You Should Know” series highlights local artists before they exhibit their work somewhere awesome, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place.  Meet artist Emily Fromm, and see her depictions of SF ‘Open Late’ at 111 Minna starting JULY 7th.

24th St. & Mission. By Emily Fromm

Name: Emily Fromm

Medium(s): Primarily acrylic paint and house paint on panel and canvas.

What was your first job in San Francisco?

Oh jeeze, I’ve worked at a lot of places here. I moved to San Francisco when I was 17, got a job at a curiosities/ flower shop in the Haight called Loved To Death when I was 18, but was only there for two weeks before I went to work as a hostess at The Boulevard Cafe in Daly City instead.

I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school!

Definitely neither, haha. I got my BA at San Francisco State in 2013 in Studio Art, with a dual emphasis in painting/ drawing and ceramics. All in, I feel like I had a great experience with their art department. My professors were awesome. Paul Mullins and Chris Finley were my main painting instructors there, and between the two of them, I felt like I grew a lot both in terms of technique, and what I wanted to do with my work. The last class I took in college was a professional practices and art writing course – summer school, after I had technically graduated – with Ray Beldner. He was extremely real with his students and gave us practical, useful information about what being an artist actually entails, from how to write a press release to finding the right side job(s) to support yourself. And all three of them are active, successful artists, so their advice and instruction came from their life experiences. I took it very seriously, and it was invaluable to me. I felt like I got an art school education without the art school price. But I was really tired of being in school by the time I graduated, and making enough money to live here while in school is extremely tough, so, I’m still not ready to think about going back for an MFA. But maybe someday.

What still inspires you about San Francisco?

Almost everything. The signage and architecture, the people, the history, the pizza… I live in the Outer Sunset and love walking around looking at houses or going down to Ocean Beach. I love killing time wandering around the Mission, reading in Washington Square Park or Specs in North Beach, walking through Castro and the Haight, hanging around Clement in the Richmond, drinking mai tais in Chinatown… I always find myself missing SF when I’m traveling and find a bathroom stall void of gratuitous graffiti, or go into a liquor store to find that it doesn’t also sell deli sandwiches. I’m definitely still in love with the city.

Let’s talk politics, are you a liberal or a super duper liberal?

I didn’t consider myself to be very political until the 2016 election made me realize that the Obama administration was over, and that I had become a bit complacent. Now I realize there is too much at stake to not be involved. I think that happened with a lot of younger people like myself, and while it was important and rewarding to become involved, Trump’s inauguration left me feeling extremely disheartened. I vote in every election (as an absentee, at home, with my boyfriend and a glass of wine), but I can’t obsess over every detail in the news if I want to have enough energy to make it through the day. I do, however, feel fortunate and proud to live in a super duper liberal city, with so many people who are committed to protecting the environment, the rights of immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ members of our community etc. I look around here and see so many people ready to fight, and I feel hopeful.

What was your last great night out in San Francisco?

Hmm… I’ve been traveling a lot, so unfortunately, I haven’t had as much time to go out in the city lately. But a few weeks ago, after spending all day at Ocean Beach, I picked up a Philly Cheesesteak at All Star on Van Ness, met some friends for beers at Zeitgeist, which was miraculously not that crowded, and got a free ride home from my buddy. If brunch the next day counts as part of the night out, we all went to New Taraval Cafe the next morning and I ate a ridiculous scramble.

How has the city changed?

I’ve only lived here since 2009, so I’m not the best person to ask. But in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of businesses lose their leases and close down. Most of the people that I knew when I first lived here have moved away. Lots of new, super expensive apartment and office buildings have gone up. Fancy coffee shops and restaurants are replacing older businesses. They planted palm trees on Taraval St. in my neighborhood and opened a bunch of new shops, which feels like the Twilight Zone. But at the same time, I imagine that the city has always been changing and growing, and that that has always been a challenge. While it’s extremely sad how many people have been – and are being – priced out of the city, there are still a lot of awesome people here who are doing great things. You just have to look harder to find them now.

Open Late by Fromm

What are you trying to communicate through your art lately?

It’s always been my goal to make work that’s relatable, inclusive, and fun for people to look at. I like to incorporate imagery that a wide range of people would know and recognize, most of which would be considered low brow, or at the very least, mundane – hot dogs, 40s, Lotto signs, newspapers, taco trucks – things that you see all the time in life, but don’t see too often in fine art. I also like to incorporate a lot of vintage signage and text in my work. I’ve always been attracted to that aesthetic, but also, I like the nostalgia factor. These signs are from another time, but they’re still here in our lives. And they’re huge, and everywhere… we see them every day. I like to paint them as we see them now, next to everyday people doing everyday things.

I also like to paint places that people are familiar with. Not necessarily the specific place – although that’s fun too, when people actually know the place that I’ve painted – but as an example, I recently painted a liquor store. That’s my liquor store, Gene’s, in my neighborhood, but when people look at it, they’re going to think about their liquor stores in their neighborhoods, or liquor stores that they went to with their parents as kids, or went to on a trip once. Same with cafes, motels, bakeries, etc. I love when people tell me what places my paintings remind them of from their own lives. The places that I paint are places that I associate with my own memories, and the people I’ve seen or met there, but I make them with with the hope in mind that they will invoke memories for other people as well. I’ve been focusing on that for a few years now, and I feel like it has evolved into a sincere love for, and I guess celebration of, mundane, everyday life.

What does it take to make it as an artist in SF these days?

A lot of blood, sweat and beers. In all honesty, though, a lot of people are talking about how the art scene in San Francisco is struggling, and how artists are being driven out of the city, which, unfortunately, is true. But the ones who are still here that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know over the years are some of the most awesome and hard-working people I’ve ever met. They’re out there making their artwork and sharing it with the community via gallery shows, pop-up shops, zines, graffiti, social media – whatever avenues are available to them. Almost all of them also hold down day jobs, sometimes more than one, and still find the time and energy to contribute. They know how to build stuff, they make their own websites, they manage their sales… And on top of that, in my experience, they’re extremely welcoming and supportive people. And I don’t just mean visual artists – this goes for musicians, writers, creative people in general who go very far out of their way to enrich the city with their work. They’re fucking warriors.

Jackson Street. By Fromm

Any SF artists you think are outstanding right now?

Absolutely: Hugo Kobayashi, Brian McDonald, Alphonzo Solorzano, Taylor Lahey, Ray Ortiz, Yarrow Slaps, Alán González-Suman, Noah Ptolemy, Mona Marcos, Matthew Bajada, Michelle Gintu, Rab Terry, Philip Gann, Azu Hernandez, John Casey, Ray Beldner, Michael McConnell, Matt Gonzalez, Tamsin Smith, Emilio Villaba, Michelle Fernandez, and others that I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Favorite Museum right now?

The new MOMA is amazing. Their Diane Arbus exhibit was very cool, I loved the Fisher Collection, and Larry Sultan’s Here and Home exhibit was killer. Musée Mécanique is definitely a favorite too.

Favorite Gallery right now?

Incline Gallery in the Mission is a great one. If you haven’t been, the building used to be a mortuary, so the gallery floor is basically one giant ramp where they used to roll bodies in and out of the building. It sounds creepy but is awesome, and they put on great shows. Also a big fan of The Luggage Store gallery on Market. I participated in their group show Welcome To The Left Coast last year, and I was completely blown away by the work. A Little Lodge is an awesome, tiny gallery in the inner sunset that has art shows and puts on drawing events. Last week they had a Predator drawing night where they showed the original 1987 movie (30th anniversary, wooo!) and had pizzas and whatnot for attending artists. I live right by the Honey Hive Gallery in the Outer Sunset, which is a donation based all-ages venue that puts on music and art shows and has community workshops. I had my first real solo art show there, my boyfriend and I curate art shows for them sometimes, and our close friends’ band Joypress played there for their first show, so it has a big place in my heart. Go check it out if you haven’t. Places like that are disappearing from the Bay Area. They need support.

Favorite Street art right now?

Jeremy Novy’s work is awesome… he’s the one who does the koi stencils on the sidewalks all over the city, but his other work is great as well. #2 Dad- I don’t know who you are, but I see you.

Novy Koi on Valencia St.

What’s coming up for you?

I have a solo exhibition at 111 Minna Gallery opening on July 7th! I’ll be showing 10 of my most recent paintings that I’ve been working on over the past year (most of which have yet to be shown anywhere), and one collaboration piece that I made with my friend and fellow artist, Alphonzo Solorzano. The show is called Open Late, and is one of two solo shows opening at Minna that night. Artist Noah Ptolemy will also be having a solo exhibition titled Now Hiring on the Minna Street side of the gallery. You can find more information about the show here!

111 Minna Gallery show preview for Open Late



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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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  1. No_Diggity
    June 20, 2017 at 1:40 pm


  2. […] JUXTAPOZ SF CHRONICLE Broke Ass Stuart Fine Art Connoisseur SF […]