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Interview with Brian Barneclo on the New Rare Device Mural

Have you seen the new mural at our Divisadero Street location? I chatted with SF-based artist Brian Barneclo on the thought process behind his mural design as well as how this collaboration came to be.

I moved to SF in ’96. I painted my way into being a part of a lot of group shows in the Mission and Haight street scenes while hustling as a sign painter. My studio paintings got larger in scale and my sign painting started incorporating artwork and so these two energies came together in the form of mural making. —Brian Barneclo

Kehau Lyons: What is your thought process behind the Rare Device mural?
Brian Barneclo: I’ve used a lot of text in paintings over the years especially in the context of storefront signage. At one point several years ago the idea of “rare device” popped into my head- like a store that sells a contraption that is quite unusual. Just thought of it as a funny thing. Then I was walking down Market Street and actually saw a store called “Rare Device”. I thought it was totally weird, but didn’t think much more of it than that. Then flash forward some years to 2013 when I was asked by the City of San Francisco to participate in the Passport Art Walk, in which they match artists with businesses in a select SF neighborhood. Who was I paired up with? You guessed it, Rare Device. That’s when I met Giselle. At one point we spoke about doing a mural on the outside, but the timing wasn’t right. Jump another two years ahead and mysteriously the timing was right. A lesson in patience, I suppose.

Sometimes I have ideas that I carry around for long times that are trying to find ways into my work. For this painting I worked with an idea that I’ve had for a while of using outlines to create form. The forms representing a rare device that is both electric and organic. And then Giselle told me about ‘rare device’ referencing the Kubla Khan. This made me see it in a new light and so I allowed that into the process. Additionally, I thought it might work best if the piece came off more like signage.

KL: How does this city influence you as an artist?
BB: San Francisco is for bohemians and the bohemian way of life is the way San Franciscans live. This is conducive to creativity.

KL: You're an accomplished muralist, with murals across the city -- how do you make each one special and distinctive for a specific location? How does the community influence the design?
BB: Context is key. I take all of the surroundings into consideration- and that includes the people of the community as well as the immediate environment. The goal is to do something that compliments and builds off of the existing reality. Peoples voices get heard in an indirect way- it’s not a request line, but it all contributes to the conversation. Just like some of my own ideas don’t end up in the final piece, it’s my duty as an artist to sift through all of it and intuitively make choices from there.

KL: Do you want viewers to take away a particular idea or is it up to each person to interpret their own understanding?
BB: I’m just the bus driver- I take you there and drop you off. I don’t tell you where to go once you get there.


See Hoodline's coverage of the mural here.
Photos by Derek Macario.

If you are in the area, come by our Divisadero store at 600 Divisadero Street, the mural is on the Hayes Street wall. If you decide to post your picture on social media, use #rdmural. See you in the neighborhood!

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