Timothy Leary is giving crowds of people the namaste salutation. Joan Baez is singing intensely while plucking her guitar. And Jim Morrison is wandering around by himself, wearing nothing above his waist except dark sunglasses. Bill Weber's depictions of 1967 San Francisco are reverent and realistic – some of the best public art there is about the Summer of Love. That's no surprise given Weber's pedigree: He was there in 1967. But instead of taking Leary's advice and "dropping out," Weber established a prominent art career that led to one of San Francisco's most notable public works: The Jazz mural that covers the entire building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Columbus.
Weber completed that mural in 1988. He finished Summer of Love in 2013. The styles are different because Weber adapts his art to the commission. Connecting the dots between all of Weber's San Francisco commissions would be a herculean test for any art student. For instance, Weber's mural at 641 Bay Street (by Columbus), which shows a character from the Cheers TV show throwing water on another character, is also vastly different from Jazz and Summer of Love, which covers the upper reaches of a burger eatery.
"With my mural in the Haight-Ashbury, I tried to do it in the style of 1960s art: rock art, that kind of stuff," says Weber, whose partner, the artist Ariana Siegel, helped on Summer of Love. "The style of my work depends on what part of history I'm trying to depict. Most of my work takes lots of research."
For Summer of Love, though, the research included self-reflection. "I lived in Hayward and I used to go to the Haight all the time," says Weber, who's now 65. "To me, it was great – it was great just being there. I didn't realize how important it was when I was there, of course, because I was probably high on something." Weber laughs at the thought.
At Haight and Clayton, the building's street-level side features a mélange of beasts and tentacles by muralist and tattoo artist Lango Oliveira. Oliveira's work complements Summer of Love and is much more open to interpretation. Still, both murals have small details that stand out. Summer of Love features well-known people whose faces aren't instantly recognizable (such as the poster artist Stanley Mouse), and lesser-known people who attended the Golden Gate Park concerts from 1967. Weber's work celebrates the idea that anyone can contribute to the changing culture — a mantra that seems more alive today than it was in 1967. Jonathan Curiel