Urban art teacher Jennifer Starkweather’s exhibit “Valediction” bids farewell to Bay Bridge east span


Hughen and Starkweather’s Drawing “Self-Anchored Suspension” (Ink, gouache, and pencil on paper, 5 x 5 inches, 2011)

Niki King Fredel, Staff Writer

Jennifer Starkweather, a visual arts teacher at Urban, is saying farewell in her own way to the old east span of the Bay Bridge, a part of the San Francisco skyline since 1936.

“Valediction,” a series of drawings using gouache, pencil, and ink, was being exhibited until Oct. 19 at Electric Works, a gallery based in San Francisco. The exhibit is an “homage” and “commemoration” of the east span, according to Starkweather.

“I originally intended to do a piece on all the bridges that connect San Francisco to different places,” Starkweather said. However, after a conversation with a friend who worked at CalTrans, she decided to focus on the Bay Bridge, old and new.

“(There was) just so much data and information about this bridge,” she said.

Starkweather, 46, and her collaborator, Amanda Hughen, have known each other since 1998, when they worked in studios across from each other at the Headlands Center for the Arts. They began drawing the bridge in 2009, and had their first exhibit on the bridge, “Approach, Transition, Touchdown” at Electric Works in 2011.

As its name implies, “Valediction” is a case of art working against time — in this case, the construction of a new span beginning in 2002 to replace the old one damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

As written on the Electric Works website, “the original East Span, which has been a part of the daily landscape of hundreds of thousands of commuters, will soon exist only in our collective memory.”

Starkweather said that she was impressed by the engineering and design construction of the new Bay Bridge, the largest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world. Although “Valediction” traces the demolition of the east span, Starkweather has no regrets about the replacement, saying, “It’s built. We paid for it. It’s done.”

Soon after the new span went up, Starkweather drove across it at night and looked over at the east span. “It looked gothic and clunky,” she said, adding, “it’s time for it to come down.”

While the Electric Works exhibit of “Valediction” ended Oct. 19, it will be on display at Dominican University of California in San Rafael from Nov. 7 through Dec. 17.

Click here for more information about Dominican College where “Valediction” will be exhibited.

Click here to see more of Starkweather’s work.

Click here to see information about Electric Works and to view pictures of “Valediction”