Behind the Scenes: Jirsa and Her Colorful Cityscapes

Mail Call, 2012

I first met Jirsa at City Art Cooperative Gallery in San Francisco.  We are both members there.  Jirsa often arrived to our monthly potlucks on roller-skates, her hair a bright red, now turned blue.  She wears a necklace with two little hands making the “Rock on!” symbol.  she is a favorite at the gallery and among our cohort, a San Francisco Icon.

Jirsa paints en Plein Air, which means, she paints outside rather than inside the safety of her own art studio which to me, makes her very brave.  She not only combats the elements but she is exposed to the criticisms of any passersby. 

If you meet Jirsa, you won't think she feels she's being brave because she approaches her easel with such gratitude.  She is happy to paint and she is happy to share this experience with anyone and everyone.

Last Saturday Jirsa painted Smitty’s Bar around the corner from AGA Gallery.  She’d never painted in Sausalito before and she felt like, if she is going to show here, it would be nice if she got to know our community by painting it and the local watering hole is be the perfect place to do it.  Jirsa sees the local bar as the heart of any community. 

Shotwells, 2018

This was also Jirsa’s first trip to my gallery. 

Jirsa has a special way of seeing things.  For one thing, the exterior of AGA Gallery has been bothering me for months.  It’s a faded canary yellow with a chipped canary yellow trellis on top. 

I was having a cup of Prosecco with Jirsa outside when she said out of nowhere, “I just love the color of this building and the trellis on top.” 

She said, “This building is the most reminiscent of an actual beach house in this whole area.  We are on a beach after all and this building reminds me of that.” 

I was initially perplexed by this because I’ve been loathing this exterior since before I leased the space and more and more since she said this, my perspective is changing.  I feel not only unburdened but proud of my sun-kissed yellow building!

And this is the sort of genius Jirsa brings to the canvas.  Her depictions of places are honest yet beautiful.  She archives a place truly but uses color in a way that gives you the warm and fuzzies.  She also takes liberties with the sky and roads saying that, well, everyone knows what a sky looks like, so I can give something more.  The magic of Jirsa!

This is why she has all the friends and why she can effortlessly make paintings that make people’s hearts flutter.  She knows how to use color to pluck your heartstrings because that same color is plucking the strings in her own heart.  Like Lauryn Hill famously said, “That feeling you get when you hear my music, I felt it first.”

Dog Eared Books, 2018

I own one Jirsa painting.

It is a painting she did of Dog Eared Books in 2018.  Dog Eared Books is a phenomenal store, don’t get me wrong, but this is not the reason I had to have this painting. 

The view is from the street corner on my way home from City Art Gallery to the apartment I shared with my now-husband.  This painting gives me the feeling of when I first fell in love with him and I was so excited to leave my shift at the cooperative to come home and see him. 

The feeling is enhanced by the monochromatic blue of the painting.  And the sweeping directional lines in the sky pointing me home. 

I think of Jirsa’s paintings as tattoos for the home.  I have a tattoo on my arm from when I was traveling alone in Berlin.  It says, “It’s all happening” in German.  When I look at it, I don’t think, right on, it’s all happening.  I think about how exciting it felt to be in Berlin. 

It’s the same with Jirsa’s paintings.  When I see the piece in my hallway I don’t think, damn, I love Dog Eared Books.  I think, wow, Hussain and I were so in love, and now I have this tattoo on my home in Oakland reminding me of where it all began.   

The Intrinsic Value of Plein Air Painting

Plein air painting is of paramount importance to a healthy society.  When done well, it is an archive of the human experience of a place.  Especially in the digital age, especially in the age of liquid modernity, we need this attention paid to our community.  We need to celebrate the spaces we coexist in.  These are the spaces that make us who we are. 

Seeing these spaces through a gracious, clairvoyant, and fun-loving lense such as Jirsa’s HONEST HUMAN lense gives us reason to protect these spaces, to care for them and to care for one another. 


Where Market Meets Castro, 2014





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