Art, Boyes Hot Springs, History, People, Personal History, Wonders and Marvels

Patrick McMurtry

Art is in the name of this Museum, and after all these years of existence, here is the first post about a specific artist. Sadly, it is occasioned by his passing.

Patrick McMurtry. 1947-2021

Gael del Mar (a perfectly beautiful name), was Patrick’s life-mate.I knew Gael first. We met at the Red Barn Store at Oak Hill Farm. Somehow we started talking about Frank Zappa (she must have had his music on the sound system.) “You like Zappa? she asked. “I have someone you should meet.” And so she introduced me to Patrick. Nearly every time we would see each other, we would talk Zappa and Beefheart. He was also interested in Sonny Barger, the Hell’s Angels front man. He loaned me a book Barger wrote, which led me to watch a lot of  motorcycle exploitation movies, which are really great fun.  Patrick had many great stories about the days of the Hells Angels and other rowdies in Sonoma Valley, which is where the Sonny Barger thing came from.

I walk around the neighborhood a lot and would often walk down Orchard Street hoping to see the garage door of Patrick’s studio open. It wasn’t a big garage, and it was packed with art, but he had a space carved out to work in. Then he and Gael moved over to 4th Avenue, which was even closer to our house. Again, I’d walk by and frequently encounter Patrick in front of their place. Long conversations would ensue. His last studio was out at the Art Farm on Grove Street. I visited him there in 2019, hung out talking, and bought a small painting (below).

In 2009 Jonah Raskin published “Field Days,” subtitled “A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California.”  The author spent that year hanging out at Oak Hill Farm, just up the road from Boyes Hot Springs. Patrick figures prominently in the book.

Jonah writes:

“Patrick McMurtry was not the first person I met at Oak Hill. Nor was he the oldest person living on the property. But he had lived there longer than anyone else-longer even than Anne Teller-and so I will let Patrick be the first Oak Hill resident to speak in this book. Anne dubbed him “the historian of Oak Hill,” and rightly so. Equipped with a good memory Patrick also appreciated facts and the sweep of events. Like most good historian, he had a knack for telling stories vividly. To go by his enthusiasm, body language, and facial expressions, he might have been talking about events as momentous and the American revolution of the civil War..” {I can certainly vouch for Patrick’s ability to tell stories vividly!}

“Of course, Patrick’s ancestors had come from Europe, and they belonged to that generation of early pioneers who put their stamp on California. They farmed, raised chickens, and cattle, grew grapes, and cut down trees, milled them, and sold the lumber”

“’My father worked for Shell Oil, and my mother worked at the high school,’ Patrick said. ‘They became party animals and alcoholics, but a great-aunt who had a farm in Paradise, California, continued the family tradition, and learned about agriculture from her.’”

“Born in 1947, Patrick watched the rural world vanish. In the 1950s, he witnessed the strange transformations of the American society of the post-World War II period, which forever changed the ways people worked and played, ate, drank, entertained, and existed.”

“Patrick graduated from high school and college and went the way of many a young man of his generation. He lived in a commune, grew marijuana, and protested against the war in Viet nam. ‘Those were trippy times’ he said. ‘There was Elvis, the Beatles, the hippies, and Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, which I actually went out and bought.’ Patrick laughed as though it was yesterday and he could still smell the pot and feel the passion of that time. The 1960s had arrived with a roar and changed the cultural landscape of the Valley of the Moon. ‘It was wild,’ Patrick said. ‘The Hells Angels congregated here; and up on Sonoma Mountain, Alex Horn a follow of the Armenian-born mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, had a farm. Hippies moved up there; Horn took their money and put them to work, which is pretty funny.’”

Patrick in the IT, 1984

From the June 20, 1984 Index Tribune article by Rhonda Parks:

In his studio hidden deep in the woods, Patrick McMurtry creates paintings inspired by a vivid imagination, like what a person alone is apt to see hiding in shadowed cubbys deep in the brush.

Peeking from his paintings are nocturnal trolls modeled after the folks he sees walking out of bars at night in Boyes Hot Springs. Patrick does a lot of walking and sometimes sees things like that.

He’s a bit mischievous, with a playful nature expressed as much in the “real world” as in his fantasy-inspired artworks.

The artist says…that his paintings reflect what it is like “going in a strange land for a while.”

While he’s painting, you might say that’s where his is-immersed in a strange land. But while some of his paintings are haunted with elusive characters, other depict life in a whimsical cartoon world. (These works ought to be accompanied by some of avant-garde singer Frank Zappa’s tunes, the artist says.)

In April 1981, Patrick showed at Composite Gallery.

When he retired from the Sonoma Developmental Center he got a pick up truck. The bumper sticker he put on the back seemed to perfectly express Patrick’s outlook.


In the photos below you see some of Patrick’s phantasmagorical works, which are truly unique.


These two videos about Patrick are available on Youtube:

Patrick McMurtry was a highly original artist, a great friend, and a valued member of the Springs community. We miss him a lot.

Index Tribune courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society

Passages from Field Days used by permission of author

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Boyes Hot Springs, History, Place Names/Street Names, Wonders and Marvels

Some Boyes Springs Mysteries

Some things are obviously mysterious, others only become so when you start to wonder. Some are just hidden and you have to be shown.

I have walked by the Mystery Pipe thousands of times, probably, and never given it a thought. Then I did. Not sure why. It’s an old, galvanized pipe or tank, about 12” in diameter, sticking out of the ground on the shoulder of Arroyo Road, near Verde Vista. It seems very solid and durable. What was its purpose? Perhaps it had something to do with an old water system, of which there were numerous over the course of the twentieth century in the Springs. It sits down the hill and not far from an old stone tank that was used in one of those systems.


Higher up on the hill is a hidden feature that may also have something to do with a water system. In the back yard of a house on  Los Robles Dr. is an ancient (by  settler standards) slab of concrete with the year “1890” cut into it.  The location is also near the stone tank, a little higher in elevation. Could it have been the location of a pump house or well head? Stay tuned for a comprehensive post on the history of water systems in the area.


Further along Las Robles a neighbor told me that there had been a quarry on the hill. This would not be unusual. Our hills are all built on basalt and Sonoma is famous for the street paving blocks quarried there and used in San Francisco in the nineteenth century. Part way down the short side of the hill I saw something that I’d seen before, but now it had new meaning: on the embankment, a split boulder with what looks like a drill hole such as would be used in a quarry. The possible quarry actually has a water system connection. There was once another tank, off of Alberca St., just above the boulder (alberca means pool in Spanish). The tank site is a large flattened area. Maybe the area was leveled for the tank by blasting out rock, or the tank was built on the site of the old quarry. Investigations continue.  

Alberca Tank Site

Photos by author and Google Maps.

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Personal History, Place Names/Street Names, Wonders and Marvels

Shipley Street

On October 17, 1989, I was sitting in my studio in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco, listening to the start of the World Series game taking place about a mile away at Candlestick Park. What came to be known as the Loma Prieta earthquake struck around 5pm.  I ran outside, just what you are NOT supposed to do, to see and feel the ground jumping up and down like I was on a trampoline.  As the concrete building next door developed an alarming crack, I heard someone say “como Ciudad Mexico.” I rushed home to Potrero Hill to find the only damage at our place was three broken wine glasses. Fortunately we had more glasses and a supply of wine.

In December of that year, I was working for a contractor in San Francisco. He got the job of putting a damaged building  at 280 Shipley Street, in the South of Market neighborhood, on a new foundation. Shipley runs from 3rd St. to 6th St. between Harrison and Folsom. Built in 1906, it was a two story place with four flats in it.  

Rumsey Collection

It was a dark and dreary fall and winter in the City. Everything seemed beaten down by the disaster. I had paid a brief visit to Tijuana the year before and I was struck by the polluted air and grime of the Avenida de la Revolution (I’m sure it’s very different now). Mission Street had that feeling to me in December of 1989. Yet I was full of energy and optimism. I had just finished my MFA at San Francisco State and I was beyond excited about making sculpture and having a brilliant career.

At first, the contractor, Dan, put me in the fallen building to erect some bracing to protect against further damage from after shocks. It was freaky being inside it. Everything leaned like the buildings at Confusion Hill, the venerable tourist trap in far northern California.

https://www.confusionhill.com/pictures

Confusion Hill postcards by Zan Stark.

That part of SOMA is built on bay fill, and the streets were bulk-headed and raised (like Pioneer Square in Seattle was in the 1880s https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Underground) after the 1906 quake. Because of that, they all had basements, which used to be at street level, and half submerged doors and windows.

I was poking around down there and found some artifacts belonging to a Leslie M.

Some facts about Leslie M.

On Sunday, February 4, 1989, at 12:27AM, Leslie M. was booked for an alleged crime committed at 507 Cole, San Francisco. He was 18 years old at the time. Charges are listed as N/W 11377 H&S, and  11357b H&S.

He was working at a welding shop in SOMA in 1989.

In 1987 his Grandma wrote him from Wyoming expressing her confidence in his abilities.

Sometime between 1985 and 1987, he was arrested in Casper Wy. as part of a meth operation.

Inside the covers of a small address book he wrote the following:

“Party hardy Rock-n-Roll

Drink a fifth and smoke a bowl

Take a toke and make it last

Hope to hell it kicks your ass.

’88 Rules”

and

“what the fuck you doing reading my book asshole.”

and

“Fuck off bitch”

and

“Heavy Metal Rules AC & DC”


After initial bracing, the building was raised using hydraulic jacks and put on cribbing.

This looks a lot like where we worked under 280 Shipley St.

The building was raised and the cribbing placed by a house mover who lived in a compound out by Candlestick Point with a lot of dogs. His face was crisscrossed with scars from the explosion of one of his hydraulic lines, he told us. I only met him once, and that was probably enough.

Peter, the other carpenter, and I and some laborers worked digging out the basement by hand and with a jack hammer. The underside of the building was about ten feet over our heads. Freaky, when aftershocks hit. The design was to put a full height basement under it.

The ground was mostly sand, but when you got down a ways we hit jumbled brick that was dumped there after the ’06 quake. We found a lot of ceramic shards, pieces of glass, and other objects.

We eventually dug down to the little creek that still flowed under that part of SOMA. (Apparently part of Hayes Creek, which flows into Mission Creek.)

Ancient creeks of South of Market

As we dug, we filled five gallon buckets with sand and debris, carried them to the front wall, boosted them up to the sidewalk level, and then into a dumpster. Eventually, through some of the hardest physical labor I’ve ever done,  we got it excavated and filled with crushed rock, compacted, and concrete forms set. I used a builder’s level (for the first time) to level the forms.

Shipley really is an alley, and the back doors of buildings open on to it. Some of these buildings were full of women working at sewing machines. Clouds of industrial fragrance billowed out.

Every day at lunch time I would walk down Shipley to 5th and go to Harvey’s Café. Harvey’s was a famous hangout for bike messengers. Harvey Woo would loan them money or give them credit so they could eat when without funds. He had a big board behind his counter where he kept slips of paper with each person’s account.

Harvey’s Place, 2015

Leslie Guttman, SF Chronicle, September 10, 1989: (Quake: October 17)

“It is Friday night. And, like the rest of San Francisco’s workers, the bike messengers head to their hangout, a grimy South of Market alley off Fifth Street, where their paychecks are cashed by their guardian angel and their dreams of the future have a brilliance that only a Friday night can bring. At least a couple hundred of the city’s approximately 400 bike messengers swarm, like bees to a hive, to Shipley alley, a narrow corridor between Folsom and Harrison streets, to let off steam after a week of dodging double- parked trucks, cars barreling through yellow lights and jay-walking office workers, their faces buried in their watches. Here, next to the alley, lives the man they call the Patron Saint of the Bike Messengers. Harvey Woo is the 49-year-old owner of Harvey’s Place, a little grocery store/lunch counter. In an era of bland chain superstores, Harvey’s is a relic: a first-names-only, family-run joint. As they say in the alley, “If you’re about to starve, you go to Harv.”

Artist’s interpretation of work under 280 Shipley Street. Photo collage on water color paper, water color, 2021. 23″x24″

A dispatch from 2008 via Yelp:

The condos and other new buildings have proliferated on Shipley and all over the City, particularly South of Market, but a few of us remember Harvey’s.

Michael Acker, april 2021

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Boyes Hot Springs, nature, Neighborhood Phenomena, Photographs, Trees, Wonders and Marvels

A Neighborhood Phenomena Sampler

Fences and trees: they have conversations, disputes, collaborations. Time is involved.

Around and through.
2021
2007
A gentle push.
Stately interruption.
Direct confrontation.
This one deserves special mention. Actually it deserves an award for adaptive reuse. During the house addition build, the old garage was torn down, but the back wall was retained and incorporated into the new fence.
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Art, Boyes Hot Springs, Collection/Obsession, Neighborhood Phenomena, Photographs, Wonders and Marvels

Twenty-four Views of the Tank

Artists and obsession:

Hokusai created the Thirty-Six Views both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji.[5]Wikipedia

Hokusai3

Artists, aging, and obsession:

“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai

“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith[3] explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”[4]Wikipedia

Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.

tankfisheye

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“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014

tankwithcaption

SMISpaimage

“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website

 

Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.

 

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Boyes Hot Springs, History, Wonders and Marvels

Nine Pounds of Iron

 

KnobTopDown1Knobfrint1Ovoid object of cast iron, heavily rusted, weight about 9 lbs, found, sometime in 2010, in the soil at the southeast corner of lot # 6 block 12 of the Boyes Springs Sudvivison A, which was platted in October of 1913. It appears to have been attached to a shaft, of which there is a broken stub. It’s too big and heavy to be doorknob: Possibly a surveyor’s corner marker.

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GrapesMetaGrapes

Boyes Hot Springs, nature, Neighborhood Phenomena, Photographs, Wonders and Marvels

Grape vines and “grape vines”

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