The school sits a few blocks down the hill from my home on Foerster St. and has been a focal point in my experience of the neighborhood personally, as it has been a place of great transformation for me and my family and visually, as it is observable from many levels and viewpoints throughout my day.
After relocating in 2011 from the flat horizontal expanse of the MIdwest, the verticality of the San Francisco landscape has expanded my understanding and experience of pictorial space. As a painting student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 90s, I was introduced to a conceptual approach to illusionary space ie, the appearance of depth and distance as objects recede in the picture plane.
Rather than depicting objects getting smaller, lower and fainter as they go back in space, as traditional 1-point perspective dictates (think renaissance paintings where everything converges toward one misty point in the distance), I am interested in the idea that while there are elements of the landscape we perceive with our senses (shape, light, color, shadow) the things we know are are equally important. For instance, San Bruno Mountain looms above the the school in the distance to the South. Instead of down playing the size of the mountain relative to the school, as the eye or camera will do, I chose to exaggerate the mass and size of the mountain, which is clearly taller than any building.
This approach was adopted in the late 19th century by the Post-Impressionists and Cubists (notably, Cezanne, Braque and Picasso) from Japanese and Chinese prints and paintings. The idea that foreground of the painting could appear significantly smaller than the background appeals to me as I continue to explore the landscape of San Francisco. It requires a leap of faith from the directly observable to the experiential, resulting in a large amount of experimentation and what sometimes feels like compositional finagling.
The most recent in the series, Red School 3, was observed from slightly above the school on Mangles Avenue. This spot allowed me to incorporate multiple levels and viewpoints into the composition. First, looking down on the buildings on Foerster and Joost, across to the school, itself and up to the buildings above. The horizon line was raised to emphasize the Pacific Ocean to the West and of course, include one of the many container ships traveling to and from the Bay.