Monday, August 13, 2012

Master Wood Cut Artist Steve Parun

Molly here!

Growing up on Potereo Hill in San Francisco through the late 1950's - 1970's I was very lucky to meet many creative individuals--artists, poets, writers and musicians.  One of whom, Steve Parun, still lives in their home across the street from where I grew up with his wife Karmela. They have always been the cornerstone of the Hill for me. They have been great friends to us, the Hagopian-Irvin clan and made sure to keep in touch - even after my mother moved to Fairfax to be closer to me.

As a kid livng on Wisconsin Street I was a part of a small pack of neighborhood kids who played together. There was myself, Adam and Kate Parun, and Julie and Lorenzo Ferlinghetti. We were the off spring of Bob and Gini Hagopian (Irvin), my parents; Steve and Karmela Parun, Adam and Kate's parents; and Lawrence and Kirby Ferlinghetti, Julie and Lorenzo's parents. I was quite used to running in and out of their homes and so was used to seeing Steve's art throughout my childhood. Having grown up with a mother who was a visual artist it seemed natural to me and so not unusual or something to pay attention to.

Steve was an intergal part of the artist community, showing at the Potereo Hill Library's Annual Art Shows, drawing with Charles Farr's drawing group on DeHaro Street, and making the awards for the annual Potereo Hill Kite Fly Contest.  Once when I was in my teens I created a cardboard cut out of a dog as a birthday gift for my mother but had no idea how to paint it. I went over to Steve's and asked him if he would help me.  He took me down to his studio under the house and lickety-split showed me how to use watercolor to get the impression I wanted.

I have always admired Steve's woodcuts and would like to show you a few of them from over the years.. He has made wood block christmas cards for years now, which I wait for with antcipation and treasure very much.

Hippos 12"x18"

These beautiful multi color prints use a process for wood blocks which are technically complex

I believe this is the oldest piece we have by Steve

I had the opportunity to ask questions of Steve recently, here is a transcript of the interview:

Questions for Steve Parun:
Where were you born? 

I was born in Antiock, CA in 1926.
When did you get to San Francisco?  

I was in the U.S. Navy from 1944-46, went to C.C.A.C.[California College of Arts and Crafts] 1946-1950 and in 1949 took a summer clss from George Harris in Lagunitas. I went to Paris in 1951 for five months, then New York from 1951-1955. In 1955 I went to Croatia where I stayed for six months and married Karmela there. We returned to Antiock in 1956 where we stayed until 1959 and then to San Francisco.
Are there any other artists in your family?

I was the only artist in our family out of nine children.
How did you become a longshoreman?

I became a longshoreman in 1959 after a Lagunitas friend and her longshoreman husband stopped off in Antiock on their way home from the Delta Area and mentioned an ad which appeared in the Chronicle about job openings for longshoremen.  I applied, accepted and moved to the ultimate dream location in San Francisco.
It seems it was a longshoremen tradition to foster artists, writers and philosophers,  did you find this to be true?   Did you receive support in that context?  

The waterfront attracted all types because it didn't affect creativity nor require seriouc thought and offered much freedom and few restrictions - plus good pay and benefits.  Best known published wrtieres were Eric Hofer, George Benet, Reg Theriauet and poet Lew Welch, "Ring of Bone". There were other writers, poets and artists.
How long have you lived on Potereo Hill? 

Moved to Pot Hill after fellow longshoreman and hill dweller mentioned vacancy on Kansas St. We moved to Wisconsin st in 1963, when attending life drawing classes at Charles Farr's studio he mentioned a friend selling an old house on Wisconsin st.
What was it like when you moved to the Hill? 

Working class popluated the hill -  many Russians, fellow workers, babushkas and backyard baths.
Was it a good environment in terms of work and art? 

Artist moved to Pot Hill for affordable housing/studios when Montgomery st (Monkey st.) became too expensive.
Can you tell us something about the other people on Potereo Hill that you associated with? (Both work and art?) 

Friends and artists: Henri- Marie Rose, Bob Kingsbury, Margo Bors, John Connolly, Charles Farr, Ferlinghetti, Jean Halpert- Ryden, Ed Ryden, John Burton, Kim Burton, Vas Arnautoff and his wife Arden, Al Ohta and many more.....
When and where did you start printmaking? 

I started printmaking when we lived in a small, cramped apartment on Guerreo st, worked on the kitchen table.  I learned printmaking by reading, asking questions and observing.
I believe you said you attended CCAC, can you tell me more about that? Whom you studied with and fellow art students you knew and know? 

Teachers at CCAC were Otis Oldfield, George Harris, George Post, Alexander Nepota, Alexander Hamilton, Victor de Wilde, Ella Hays,etc.  Fellow students remembered are Ralph Borge, Bob Gumpertz, and Ed Ryden . Borge lives in Point Reyes and is a super-realist.
Do you have print making themes or concerns? (Figurative, landscape, political, floral?) 

My printmaking themes were drawn from home, art class drawings and work.
What are you doing now with art? Any current projects? 

 I do very little art work now.

Here are a couple of picture of Steve and Karmela over the years.

Dinner at Mom's on Wisconsin st.
Mom (Virginia Irvin) in left foreground,  Karmela and Steve on left

Mom's surprise 70th BD. at Molly's house in Fairfax
You can find Steve and Karmela, 5th and 6th persons,  left side,  back row

                                       Steve and Larry at Virginia's 80th birthday party, her home in Fairfax

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