Saturday, July 27, 2013

Out and About: Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach

On the way to this small beach community in Marin County, the road twists past verdant hills caressed by drifting fog and affords panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean. In town, urban dwellers stroll barefoot along the white sand shore, breathing in the sea air and winding down - if only for a few precious and fleeting days of summer.
Stephanie Wright Hession
All photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession copyright 2013.
1. Stinson Beach

Shoreline Highway: At this popular spot, beachgoers picnic beneath umbrellas. Signs warn swimmers of dangerous rip currents and the possibility of great white sharks, including in shallow water and along the shoreline. Attacks have occurred here. (415) 868-1922.

2. Parkside Café

43 Arenal Ave.: The outdoor patio makes for a pleasing lunch spot with its picnic tables and petite garden blooming with salvia, rose and lilies. The best bet is the burger - in Niman Ranch beef or turkey versions - accompanied by mixed greens, tomatoes, rustic mustard aioli and a side of fries. (415) 868-1272.

3. Village Green Park

Arenal Avenue and Calle Del Mar: Just past the wooden and stone archway at this 2-acre neighborhood park, children scamper onto the play structure while people relax on the lawn or a shaded bench. Others walk their leashed pooches, and around the corner, older kids shoot hoops in the basketball court.

4. Stinson Beach Market

101 Calle del Mar: From deli sandwiches and high-quality groceries - including meats, locally caught fish and mostly organic area produce - to beach, barbecue and fishing supplies, there's a lot to choose from at this corner market. (415)

5. Live Water Surf Shop

3448 Shoreline Highway: In 1978, Kirby Ferris opened a surf shop that became a local landmark, especially after he created the no-shark logo that first appeared on bumper stickers. Since sold, the shop rents and sells boards and wetsuits. (415)

Of Note:
Portions of the Shoreline Highway to Stinson Beach are very winding, steep, narrow and used by cyclists. It can also be obscured by dense fog, especially in the early morning and evening.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Out and about: John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez

The Victorian gracing a hill in the Alhambra Valley became the final home of naturalist John Muir, who lived there for 24 years. His pioneering efforts to preserve America's natural lands garnered the Sierra Club co-founder the nickname "The Father of our National Park System." Take a self-guided tour through his home, and the next time you visit a national park, thank Muir.

All photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession copyright 2013.

1. Muir Home

John Muir's father-in-law, Dr. John Strentzel, had this home constructed in 1882. After Strentzel's death in 1890, Muir's mother-in-law asked him, his wife and their daughters to reside with her in the 17-room, two-story mansion designed by San Francisco architects Wolfe and Son.

2. East and west parlors

To the right of the home's foyer, the formal west parlor is decorated with red wallpaper, an elegant chandelier, a gilded mirror and a piano. Accomplished pianist Louie Muir, John's wife, enjoyed playing there. John Muir had this rustic, brick fireplace built in the east parlor after the 1906 earthquake.

3. Dining room and conservatory

To encourage his daughters to dine with him, Muir would delight them with stories. Today, historical photographs, books and booklets adorn the dining table, and a nearby shelf holds framed photographs and profiles of artist William Keith, a fellow Scotsman, and other Muir friends. Adjacent to the dining room is a petite conservatory.

4. Muir's study and bedroom

From inside his study, which he referred to as his "scribble den," Muir penned some of the 12 books and more than 300 magazine articles he wrote during his lifetime. In his bedroom across the hall, he preferred to wake up with the sun, and so no curtains covered its large windows.

5. Attic and bell tower

Inside an attic, next to an assortment of antique furniture, you'll find a display of historic photographs related to Muir and the national parks. But the real fun is climbing the steep stairway to the bell tower and surveying the view from its rows of windows. And, yes, there's still a bell.

6. Orchards and grounds

After visiting the house, stroll the paved path through the grounds and past some of the orchards, remnants from Muir's fruit ranch. Here, he grew fruit trees, including Astrachan and Gravenstein apples, elderberry and quince. Visit the Martinez Adobe, built in 1849 and also open to the public.

Of Note:

Stop at the visitor center first (next to the parking lot) to learn more about John Muir including watching "A Glorious Journey," a short film about him, then take a ranger led or self guided tour of his home and grounds. John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez. (925) 228-8860. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Admission is free.

Sculptor Peter Anton's solo exhibition, "Random Acts of Indulgence," closes at Scott Richards Contemporary Art tomorrow, Saturday, July 27

I'm writing a post about Peter Anton's wonderfully, whimsical show again since it closes tomorrow, Saturday, July 27:

The condensation on the bitten ice cream bar, the crimson cherry revealed through dome of chocolate and the sheen of a glazed donut all appear amazingly real. However, they're actually large scale, mixed media works by sculptor Peter Anton. Treat yourself with a visit to his solo exhibition, "Random Acts of Indulgence," at Scott Richards Contemporary Art through July 27.

“Dark Bar,” (2012) mixed media sculpture by Peter Anton. Photo courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

“Special Assortment Round 0440,” (2013) by Peter Anton. Photo courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

“Lustful Selection,” (2013) by Peter Anton. Photo courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

“Donut Selection,” (2012) by Peter Anton. Photo courtesy of Scott Richards Contemporary Art.

Scott Richards Contemporary Art gallery
251 Post St., Suite 425
San Francisco
(415) 788-5588

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday
11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday
Open Sunday and Monday by appointment

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Diego Rivera's "Pan American Unity" mural in San Francisco

Thrilled to finally stop by recently to spy Diego River’s masterpiece on display at the City College of San Francisco.

If you want to see it, hurry. It's only on public view from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Friday, July 19 (the website incorrectly lists July 26.) After that, when it will be open to the public is not yet determined.

Rivera painted this large, exquisite mural, officially entitled “Unión de la Expresión Artistica del Norte y Sur de este Continente,” which translates to “The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent,” in English. It's more commonly known as the “Pan American Unity” mural.

He created it in 1940 for the “Art in Action” exhibition at the Golden Gate International Exhibition on Treasure Island, which allowed fair goers to watch artists create works live. Can you imagine being at the fair and happening across him painting it?

All photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession copyright 2013.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"The Bridge Builders" exhibition, through Sept. 27

Ironworker turned photographer Joseph A. Blum has spent the last 15 years chronicling the new eastern span project of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Read more about it in my visual arts story:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Out and About: Kid friendly activities on Webster Street, Alameda

After the closure of the Naval Air Station Alameda in 1997, Webster Street languished. Then a major renovation invigorated the area and kindled its transformation. Today, it’s a family friendly district with sweet boutiques for the younger set, amusing spots to take the kids, casual cafes and more.

By Stephanie Wright Hession
All photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession Copyright 2013.

1. Sweet Charlotte and The Diaper Connection

 1513 Webster St.: Inspired by Charlotte, her two-year-old daughter, Cassandra Caron just opened this boutique selling affordably priced attire for little girls—the most expensive dress costs less than $30. It features cotton sundresses, frilly tutus and party dresses designed by Caron, who also relocated The Diaper Connection here. (510) 523-7766,

2. AAA Premier Scuba

1517 Webster St.: If you’ve dreamed of snorkeling in turquoise hued, ocean waters, seeing tropical fish and coral reefs—or venturing deeper by scuba diving—talk to the experienced divers and instructors here. They share a passion for the sea and teach various levels of diving classes in swimming pools and the open water.
(510) 217-8587,

3. Alameda Sports cards and comics

1515 Webster St.: A small but fun place to browse and remember all of those comic book heroes from childhood, pick up new issues including the latest “Superman” adorned with a three-dimensional cover, Oakland A’s and S.F. Giants stuff, and quirky, pop culture toys including Tokidoki plush toys Donutina and Donuatino. (510) 769-0644.

4. Pacific Pinball Museum

1510 Webster St.: The thwack of the ball, the click of the flippers and the illuminated images of the classic pinball machines at this nonprofit museum delight adults and kids, who get to experience a game that isn’t virtual. No quarters required—$15 admission per adult and $7.50 per child younger than 12. (510) 205-6959,

5. Wescafe

1536 Webster St.: Wescafe’s menu includes breakfast croissants made with ham and cheese, spinach and feta or eggs, sandwiches including the pesto chicken and coffee cake. The family that owns it sources its fresh and organic produce from the twice weekly Alameda Farmers’ Market. Order at the counter and head to the back patio. (510) 522-7200,

6. First Transcontinental Railroad plaque

Lincoln Street (at Webster Street): On Sept. 6, 1869, the first Transcontinental Railroad train passed this spot on the way to its destination at the Alameda Terminal located on what is now Alameda Point. Its arrival established a vital trade and travel link between the East and West coasts.

Of Note: 

Enjoy the bounty of California’s summer crops, fresh fish, a bouquet of flowers, baked goods, etc. while listening to live music at the Alameda Farmers’ Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesdays and Saturdays. Webster and Haight streets. Open year round, rain or shine.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Painter Jeremy Sutton

Learn more about London-born painter Jeremy Sutton in a story I wrote about him for the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Endless Dance," (20060 by Jeremy Sutton. Courtesy of the artist.

Artist AJ Fosik

Employing wood, spray paint and nails, artist AJ Fosik creates fantastical creatures.
Read more about him in my visual arts feature in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Lusus Naturae” by AJ Fosik. Courtesy of the artist.

“Strange regions in search of beauty, awe or terror” by AJ Fosik. Courtesy of the artist.

Sculptor Charlotte Kruk

San Jose sculptor and arts teacher Charlotte Kruk creates imaginative, fashionable works with unexpected materials. Read more about her in my Visual Arts story in the San Francisco Chronicle and visit her website:

"El Flamenco" by Charlotte Kruk. Courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design