San Francisco artist Todd Gilens has four major works now on display in that city. To find them, though, you'll need a special bus tracker:
From the Muni Diaries:
Instead of thinking about buses an advertising space, Gilens wondered if buses can be a vehicle for visual impact. “We use buses without thinking, like using a paper towel, but what if we used images to transform the bus, to give an emotive quality to buses?”
Gilens raised money to wrap four buses in photographs of the Brown Pelicans, Coho Salmon, Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse and Mission Blue Butterfly.
They're quite beautiful:
Images of all four buses are here. Just click the little forward and back buttons.
Todd lays out the background for his work in a short statement here, and in a longer article in Antennae (PDF here). Here's his conceptual bridge from transit to endangered species, by way of urban form:
A way to think of settlement patterns would be: how can mutual needs or living space be courteously accommodated? Just as we do when crowded around other humans (as on a bus for example) being close enough to all fit while everyone gets at least somewhat of the space they need. In the framework of regional settlement, this means checking to see if the streams, the coyotes, the polliwogs or ferns are not getting trampled, and if they are, maybe shifting over a bit to give them some room.
It was courageous of Todd to even tell me about this project, given what I've written elsewhere about advertising wraps. I also long to see bus exteriors used for the primary mission of helping people figure out the bus system. I especially like simple color-coding schemes that distinguish fundamentally different kinds of service, such as the simple Los Angeles paint scheme where red means Rapid and orange means Local.
But as a temporary exhibit, which is what this is, I'm all for it. These buses operate through surprise. (True beauty is always surprising, which is why it can be hard to appreciate in a museum.) So even if the bus wraps were permanent, their beauty would diminish as people got used to them.
The four buses will be wrapped through the end of March and a bit into April.