Art In Uncertain Times: Jeremy Fish Is the Ambassador of North Beach, San Francisco
As the seagull flies, I live 6 miles from Jeremy Fish. Looking across San Francisco Bay, we can probably wave at each other, he in North Beach and me in Sausalito. It feels weird to not be able to just drive to check in on my friend, grab lunch, see his bakery-turned-into-studio in one of the City's great historic neighborhoods. As part of our ongoing Art In Uncertain Times series, these are the new realities we find ourselves exploring, that is, exploring ways to be close to each other when the distance is more physical and not emotional. I caught up with Jeremy on a foggy April afternoon to get a sense of how he perceives his neighborhood and his practice impacted by the global crisis.
Evan Pricco: It's interesting how San Francisco declared a state of an emergency so early, February 26th I believe. You could actually feel the City and surrounding area literally lock down quickly. When did it really dawn on you that things were really changing?
Jeremy Fish: North Beach, the neighborhood where I live, is a very tourist driven economy compared to a lot of San Francisco. I started to worry when tourism completely vanished. Followed shortly by our Mayor doing the best she can to keep our city healthy and telling us all to stay inside.
Right, you live in such a densely populated neighborhood, with, on top of that, tourists, so I’m sure you noted a sea change in North Beach. What is the scene like there right now?
Completely empty, and mostly boarded up. There are two coffee shops, and two pizza places that are still doing take out, and I love them for it. I talked to the beat cops here (from six feet away) and we agreed that after dark the only folks on these streets are either walking their dogs, or pretty wild and crazy mental dudes. It is really breaking my heart to see my neighborhood, my city, and the whole world all boarded up and getting more sick by the day.
We continually feel like, when we are talking to artists around the world, their schedules aren't too off, it's the rest of the world that is off. Has your schedule changed at all?
Honestly, Evan, other than my view from the studio (less people / less cars), and my diet (not enough cheeseburgers), my life is still business as usual. I still have some rad illustration projects to work on, and a head full of ideas for some personal drawings for an upcoming show in Denver later this year at Black Book Gallery. Quarantine or not, I wake up in my apartment here in North Beach, cross the street to my old bakery art studio, and spend the day drawing and painting pictures with very few people around. It has been my routine in some capacity for most of the last two decades. I am very grateful to have the skillset to be alone for long periods of time, stay productive, and find satisfaction and comfort in that lifestyle.
I attribute the skill that I developed very young to deal with long harsh winter weather in Upstate NY. There are several months when you wanted to be out skating with your friends, but snow and cold keep you inside finding clever ways to pass the days and be productive somehow until spring. My grandparents worked mostly from home doing handicrafts and woodworking. So at a very young age I learned to fill my days crafting and creating rather than complaining.
I think we can learn a lot from creatives for tips on how to spend the days, how to really get consumed in a project for a few hours. Okay, we’re listening
As sad and lonely as this time can be, it is also a very rare and wonderful opportunity to have a personal renaissance in a way that may never happen again. Take this crazy moment in human history to explore something new that has always been a goal you didn't have time to learn. My neighbor works at Thrasher, and is a very social dude, whose schedule has been completely broken. He has used this time to become a great chef, write and produce some funny songs, raise money for bars and restaurants here in SF, and make a body of spirograph drawing postcards which he displayed on little easels and had his first art show in my studio. It is great to see so many inspiring humans via the internet rise to the occasion and make the best of this experience.
Have you been experimenting at all on things you have wanted to work on but didn't have time before?
I just ordered some HUGE 15' x 15' canvas, which I am planning to mount on the wall here in the bakery and experiment with some larger looser drawings.
Give us 5 local businesses to support in SF right now, or even globally.
1) Golden Boy Pizza: http://www.goldenboypizza.com/
2) Tony's Pizza: http://tonyspizzanapoletana.com/menu/
3) Chubby Noodle: https://www.chubbynoodle.com/chinese-takeout
4) Specs Bar: https://www.gofundme.com/f/keep-specs-afloat
5) Vesuvios: https://www.gofundme.com/f/vesuvio-staff
Do you have any good art films or documentaries you recommend for me to kill a few hours?
Not really man, I watch "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" each night as I am falling asleep. He was my upstairs neighbor in college in Albany, New York, and dude is still doing "The Tonight Show" from his home right now. Pretty inspiring.
We talked to Jeremy Fish about his studio in the Spring 2020 Quarterly. You can order that here.