About the Artist

Our family is forth generation Oakland having immigrated from the Azore Islands.  I was born in 1958.  My great grandfather had a small grocery store around 13th Avenue around 1900.  My grandfather owned Fontes print shop with his brother Andre around the 1940’s-1970’s.  My father was a salesman in Jack London Square and owned the Blue Book bar and restaurant on auto row and my mom worked at the Blue Book after he passed in 1979.  I’ve been a practicing artist for 35 years and now live in San Rafael. 

To put my art in context I always think it’s important to remember how when I started in 1980-81 there were relatively few public murals being created.  Precita Eyes Mural Art Center of San Francisco was in its infancy.  Some individual artists had made a splash like Stephan who painted the Dutch Boy mural in Berkeley.  The hippie mural movement was actually pretty strong in Santa Cruz. The Haight-Ashbury had wall art but as a movement it was still somewhat fragile.  In the late 70’s a program called

                            (Photo by Andy Kjelfgren)

                            (Photo by Andy Kjelfgren)

CETA a scion of the Carter Administration had given out a few jobs here and there.  But CETA died and by the mid-1980’s San Francisco had it’s own Mural Art Center near SOMA.  But that too is long gone now.

Graffiti was not a mainstream movement with thousands of people like today but an individual decision and rare.  Schools weren’t teaching public art.  I had this vision to see thousands of walls with mural art everywhere in Oakland and the Bay Area. 

A turning point moment for me was hearing a CalTrans sponsored ad on the car radio asking people to submit projects for freeway walls-which is why I painted the Giraphics projects.  

My art college experience was less than comprehensive and I’d made a decision to contact artists whose work I enjoyed and ask if I could be an assistant on any projects coming up.  It was a life changing decision that led to hundreds of positive connections and learning opportunities.  I’d like to thank Daniel Galvez, John Wehrle, Gary Graham, Keith Sklar and Nicole Emanuel for their positive guidance and patience.  

In the early 80’s perhaps 100-300 qualified mural painters that I was aware of in SF and Oakland, today there are thousands.  Art supplies are varied and available at the touch of a button.  The Bay Area art scene today is undeniably much stronger now.  

                                 (Photo by D. Ross Cameron)

                                 (Photo by D. Ross Cameron)

What I’m presenting here are only some selections of the murals I’ve worked on.  There are well over 100 murals I’ve assisted with.  This show doesn't include hundreds of watercolors, drawings, pen and ink, small canvases, smaller commissions, photography, photo-collages and experimental media. 

There’s also all the murals you apply for and miss out on-and those designs would be a show in itself-and a good one.  My friend and mentor John Wehrle once said you get about one in twelve murals you apply for.  For the most part the public has no idea about the lives of artists and is often under the misimpression's movies and the media deliver.  Which is one of the reasons for this show.  Another reason is to call attention to the challenging funding gauntlet that fuels and allows for public art.   For example: in the late 1990’s Oakland had close to a $4,000,000 annual budget for the arts and today it’s less than $1,000,000.  The ray of hope on the horizon seems to be crowdsourced funds.

My constant thanks to Bill and Marian Fontes for their support.  My further thanks to Julie Lucchesi and so many friends who’ve been there during countless circumstances.

- Dan Fontes