As pedestrians walk down the north side of Oak Street by the Department of Motor Vehicles, they come across a series of orange, poppy sidewalk stencils, which mirror the real poppies flowering from the edges of the DMV's property. They also come across a series of art pieces that inhabit the block's sidewalk plantings. One is a bowling pin that has a man's face on it and says, "I'm a pinhead . . . Only pinheads steal. Don't be a pinhead!"
A little confrontational, yes — and maybe Bill O'Reilly-esque — but also funny. Very funny. And humor is part of the approach for the art-gardener called "Brian Poppyseed," who found the bowling pin on the DMV's grounds. He also found all the other objects — including a lantern, bicycle gears, and a monkey's face — that he repurposed for his Oak Street art project. The objects were likely left behind by homeless people who sleep on the DMV's property at night, he suspects. "The art is actually produced from the junk that people trash there," Poppyseed says on a recent Sunday afternoon as he puts the finishing touches on his art project. "I've been taking it and making it into something."
Poppyseed originated his art-and-planting project on the southeast corner of the DMV's property — but motor vehicle personnel, he says, told him it was illegal because of strict state regulations that govern what anyone can do to the foliage at state buildings. So he just moved his project a few feet down the block, and left behind poppy stencils all along the way. "The DMV kicked me out of that spot on the corner — a woman came out and said, 'It's illegal!' " says Poppyseed, whose original southeast corner plot was deemed "San Francisco's hottest new garden" by Hoodline. "Before it was just hypodermic needles and trash and sand. She said, 'It doesn't matter. We're putting it back to sand and ivy.' That's bullshit. That's stupid. I found it outrageous."
Poppyseed, who lives in an apartment building near the DMV, says he's on disability and considers himself "a guerrilla gardener who likes to do art." "I knew people would enjoy it," he says of his work. "I like gardening, and they won't let me do it in my building."