San Francisco “In The Pines” Immersive experiential installation. Curated by Justin Charles Hoover

Backstory: Justin contacted me if I would create an installation in one of the units of a late 19th century apartment building in Noe Valley of San Francisco. The new owner of the property made the whole building – supposedly entirely vacant (it was not) – available for Justin to curate art in it before it was to be remodeled. He tapped into his extensive network of artists and lined up several of us, each of us given an apartment unit. Each of the unit consisted of a hallway, a small bedroom, small diningroom connected to a parlor with a fire place, bathroom, kitchen and kitchen porch. A working class apartment for labor force needed to the boom cycles of San Francisco

As I sat in the empty apartment assigned to me, I became curious about the lives of generations of workers to come through this place. Once this neighborhood was blue collar. Today Noe Valley is very gentrified, genteel, expensive, and primarily white. 

Justin came up with some great ideas to make this a temporary and alternative art experience space. So many great ideas and proposals.


I want to fill the emptiness of this lived space with marks of time, to compress the layers of time, movement of people and connections of lives that the individuals may or may not be aware of. The migration of people into San Francisco, each for their own reasons, but often driven by hope, desperations, or enormous unseen economic forces beyond the individual’s control. I live in the Bayview district of San Francisco, one of the last black neighborhoods. Bayview’s black population is a direct result of the Second Great Migration and the World War 2 effort and the new naval shipyard. So who lived here? Irish immigrants? Displaced Italians? Black shipyard workers? 

The song “In The Pines” popped into my head.  So many versions and so many interpretations. To me, I heard the lamentations of labor migration. 

I created a playlist of all the variations of In The Pines that I could find and played it over and over as I built this. The actual build took 2 weeks, with help from many friends. There were several 12 to 16 hour days as I wove. I finished on February 6, 2020


Some details

  • The ropes are from the same batch as the ropes used for InVocation
  • There’s an olfactory component. In one of the closets is a pile of rich soil, eucalyptus and redwood branches. Scent of San Francisco fills the room, mixing with the heady scent of hemp rope.
  • The structure is made to be touched, climbed, and enjoyed. The swing and the seat as well


During the build we discovered that there were still two residents in the building, and that the new landlords have been pressuring them to move. None of us, including Justin, knew about this. There were other shady shenanigans related to this. The remaining residents had no idea about the art takeover and understandably upset that strangers were running around in the building. I felt like we were being used as a pawn for the landlord to legitimize and put a pretty wrapping on their ugly strategy of greed. Justin made the good and right decision to close and deinstall all the art in progress in the building and withdraw from this terrible situation. But… at this point I was near completion. Weeks and days of my effort for naught?  No one to see and play in it? No documentation for this gorgeous work? 

We decided that I would finish the piece and show to friends on a personal invite basis.   I was able to share this with good people.  Justin and I each reached out to photographers, who documented this.  Given the density of the immersive installation, it’s a challenging work to photograph well. 

Then the COVID-19 lockdown across San Francisco happened…

I really want to create this piece again, in another space with history, and under better conditions, and share it with the public.