Ala Ebtekar’s Cosmic Love for San Francisco

San Francisco is both earthly and divine.

A city has many possibilities—it’s a wide open landscape inspired by the heritage, folklore, and traditions of its inhabitants.

Though our backgrounds may define us, a city can just as easily define us, becoming a part of who we’ve been, who we are, and who we will become. For San Francisco-based artist Ala Ebtekar, the notion of culture’s impact on community is a major focal point not only in his practice as an artist but also in his personal life. As part of The GOOD Cities Project, we collaborated with Ebtekar to create a visual love letter to the city of San Francisco, and recently spoke with him about his artistic practice, his relationship with the Bay Area, and what he had planned for his love letter.

A first-generation American, Ebtekar is the son of Iranian immigrants who left their homeland during the revolution of 1979. Ebtekar grew up in both Tehran and California, feeling rooted in both communities. “Sometimes I felt more Iranian and sometimes I felt more American,” Ebtekar notes.

As an artist, Ebtekar explores his dual identity in his work. He’s drawn to visuals shared in the folklore and architecture of both his homelands, particularly the arch—which serves as a doorway through which our view spans time, history, and space. “Sufi believed existence is of two natures, the earthly and the divine,” Ebtekar says. “The transition between these two states was represented by the arch.”

For the GOOD Cities Project, Ebtekar wanted to visually articulate the openness of the San Francisco Bay Area’s culture and history. “I welcome the rare opportunity to deepen my engagement with the Bay Area community visually through this project,” noted Ebtekar. He believes San Francisco is a microcosm of the world, with people from all over the globe living and working within its borders. By using the hashtag #sflove, a symbol borrowed from the Bay Area social community, this billboard unifies the many cultures of San Francisco.

“In my practice as an artist I have explored optimism, possibilities, and connections to the self,” Ebtekar says. “By isolating arches, windows, and views of the cosmos, I hope to suggest a common meditative vision with application to both ancient tradition (and spirituality) and to imaginings of the future.”

Ala’s billboard was on display as part of the GOOD Cities Project throughout November.

via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading

The Free the Nipple movement is trying to remove the stigma on women's breasts by making it culturally acceptable and legal for women to go topless in public. But it turns out, Free the Nipple might be fighting on the wrong front and should be focusing on freeing the nipple in a place you'd never expect. Your own home.

A woman in Utah is facing criminal charges for not wearing a shirt in her house, with prosecutors arguing that women's chests are culturally considered lewd.

Keep Reading

In August, the Recording Academy hired their first female CEO, Deborah Dugan. Ten days before the Grammys, Dugan was placed on administrative leave for misconduct allegations after a female employee said Dugan was "abusive" and created a "toxic and intolerable" work environment. However, Dugan says she was actually removed from her position for complaining to human resources about sexual harassment, pay disparities, and conflicts of interest in the award show's nomination process.

Just five days before the Grammys, Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her claims are many. Dugan says she was paid less than former CEO Neil Portnow. In 2018, Portnow received criticism for saying women need to "step up" when only two female acts won Grammys. Portnow decided to not renew his contract shortly after. Dugan says she was also asked to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 a year, which she refused to do.

Keep Reading