Todd Young is a local artist with a talent for seeing beauty in the mundane – to be more specific, in the wrought-iron gate on his house. Since 2014, he’s created colorful murals on his front gate every month, uploading photos of his creations at @thegateguysf on Instagram to the delight of locals and tourists alike. Murals can be anything from historical figures to neighborhood dogs.
Eight years on, he’s officially completed his 100th front gate mural, this time honoring Sister maeJoy B. withU, who completed 16 years of community service this May with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is a self-proclaimed “21st century Order of Nuns” and nonprofit organization dedicated to the community. They have been in action since 1979, when they first appeared in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, and haven’t stopped since! Over the decades, the Sisters have raised millions of dollars for various local community causes.
Young’s front gate murals started when he saw his friend throwing out cheap plastic tablecloths after their child’s birthday party. “I am all about recycling, rethinking, renewing, and reusing in my art, and just don’t believe in the disposable economy,” Young told us.
He took the tablecloths home and started experimenting, eventually settling on cutting them into 2-inch strips and pushing them through the back of his front gate with a popsicle stick. With this technique, he began creating pointillism-inspired art pieces for his neighbors to enjoy.
But it didn’t really take off until Young started creating a calendar for his mother featuring his front gate masterpieces. She had asked him for a calendar when he was in college, and he decided to follow up.
“Well, my mother was getting older, and I was laid off from work one year, and I decided that I had better finally get to it, or miss my chance forever. So I began decorating my gate each month and taking a picture of it,” says Young.
This blossomed into a consistent project, to the delight of tourists and neighbors alike. Young told us that each installation takes between 22 to 44 hours, meaning that he spends about a week outside working on the month’s creation.
“I’ve had the pleasure of meeting almost all of my neighbors extending a few blocks in either direction, as well as many many people from all over the world who have just stumbled onto the artwork while I am out there working,” says Young.
“I want my artwork to make people stop, or at least to look up and to notice everything that is happening and changing all of the time, and to really BE in the moment, so I change it up every single month, and have been doing so since January 2014!”
The dollar store tablecloths have proved to be an enduring material, because they’re waterproof and reusable. “Fortunately, the quality control is so lax, that each shipment from the factory of “blue” can be very different from the last ” blue” they received,” Young says. “The longer I have been doing this, the wider my palate has become. I reuse the strips for each installation, but new colors seem to find me when someone has a party!”
Young wants his work to push opposites together so as to show mundane items in a new way, often bordering on the absurd. He also creates props for cabaret and drag shows. “I often tell people that if they want a desk, go buy a desk, but if you want a desk that you could also wear as a hat, then give me a call!”
You can find Young’s legendary gate on the 200 block of Page Street, at a blue house with 2 second-story bay windows. Be sure to keep track of his newest pieces at @thegateguysf on Instagram, and tag him in your pictures if you go to see his work in person!
You can find Young’s other work at Hayes Valley Art Works on Octavia Boulevard.
Featured Image: @thegateguysf via Instagram