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Artist Kate Tova Brings Stunning ‘Street Hearts’ And More To The Bay Area

By Jamie Ferrell

Artist Kate Tova Brings Stunning ‘Street Hearts’ And More To The Bay Area

These unapologetically feminine and bold art pieces are dotted all over the city.

Women’s History Month is still upon us, and women’s art and expression surrounds us in hundreds of places around the city. You don’t want to miss these captivating street hearts by full-time contemporary artist Kate Tova. The unapologetically bright colors, rhinestones, and glitter provide a funky, feminine touch in places where you might not expect it.

[Image via KateTova.com]

Tova, whose work usually sells for a few thousand dollars apiece, wanted to create a gallery experience on the street for the people of San Francisco. After seeing so many boarded-up businesses in the city due to the pandemic, she began painting “Street Hearts” on the wooden boards to bring a bit of brightness during otherwise dark times. We interviewed Tova about her process and inspiration.

Street Heart on boarded-up “La Boulangerie de San Francisco” at 222 Sutter St. [Image via KateTova.com]

“I didn’t want to simply print my work and do quick wheat pastes,” Tova told us. “I wanted it to be different and to look like an original artwork. I cut the heart shapes out of a canvas roll, applied huge amounts of paint on them, and embellished with sequins, rhinestones and other mediums I would use on an original piece. Then I would glue them on boarded-up businesses around SF, finishing the drips with spray paint on the spot. Hearts were often painted without permission, unlike my large murals. It’s super rewarding to hear from locals that the pieces help brighten their day!”

Street Heart close-up [Image via KateTova.com]

“The heart is a universal symbol of love and the color always brings positive vibes. I’m hoping that the hearts will bring hope and put a smile on people’s faces,” explains Tova on her website.

Here is a map of spots where you can see Tova’s Street Hearts around the city. But keep an eye out, because there are definitely more out there!

Tova, who is originally from Russia, was inspired to explore painting with vibrant colors and textures as an escape from the dreary winters. She then lived in New Orleans and took more inspiration from carnivals and other aspects of the city’s culture. Her move to San Francisco in 2019 took her work to a more contemporary and unique level.

“Amy 2020” from “Mask 2020” collection [Image: @kate_tova via Instagram]

“San Francisco’s colorful houses and non-stop flowering trees inspire me to use a vibrant color palette,” said Tova. “I live right by Golden Gate Park and almost every time I walk my dog I take pictures of different flowers and interesting plants. I adore the local parks and the magical flower islands people make in their front yards. I collected so many pictures that I started making bouquets of them and digitally distorting the compositions. This was the inspiration for my ‘Glitches’ series.”

“Spring Glitch” [Image: @kate_tova via Instagram]

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Tova describes “Glitches” as a juxtaposition of nature and technology. She considers the explosive, visceral paintings to be symbols of resistance and freedom after living under authoritarianism in Russia. They also come with a distinctive, implicit feminine aspect.

Femininity is very present throughout my work,” said Tova. “Looking at Glitches you’ll notice the floral shapes that will remind you of some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s pieces. It’s not intentional but the distorted flowers just look very sexual sometimes.”

Glitches are laser-cut out of maple wood, an expensive process done for original artworks meant to go indoors. You can see more of her glitches here.

“Say Her Name” now at Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St. [Image via KateTova.com]

This past year, Tova created several larger-scale installations in the city. Laverne Cox, a dynamic portrait of the actress and LGBTQ+ rights activist, was previously displayed on Fillmore Street.

Say Her Name, a stunning tribute to the Black women who have died of police brutality, has been reinstalled on a wall of the Westin St. Francis at 335 Powell St. Limited edition prints of this mural made about $3,500, with 100% of proceeds going to the Black Artist Fund.

California Native Glitch, a tribute to California’s firefighters, is a public mural that is still visible at 1650 California Street for another six months or so. It features California native plants, many of which are endangered.

“California Native Glitch” at 1650 California St. [Image via KateTova.com]

In the future, Tova hopes to extend her MASK 2020 series which features masked portraits of famous and recognizable people. “2020 was a year I devoted for my community,” said Tova. “I self-sponsored all the murals I’ve done! This year I’m focusing more on creating originals and improving some of the logistics of my business (such as hiring more people) that will allow me to expand creatively.”

Be sure to check out more of Tova’s work on her website and Instagram, or otherwise keep an eye out for her iconic Street Hearts around the city!

Kate Tova in front of “Say Her Name” mural [Image: @kate_tova via Instagram]

If you’re looking for more Women’s History Month content, we’ve honored Bay Area women such as Vice President Kamala Harris and SF Mayor London Breed for the history they’re making as we speak. We also celebrated plenty of local street art, rounding up 20 lesser-known murals of women around the city, as well as murals of Amanda Gorman and the women of the Black Panther Party.

[Featured Image: “Gold Rush Street Heart” at Hotel Zephyr, 250 Beach St. Image: @kate_tova via Instagram]