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Arts & Entertainment

See San Francisco’s neighborhoods in miniature—from cozy bistros to bleak encampments

Sunset District artists Jamie Diy and Jacquelyn Scott's diorama of a tiny Japanese restaurant is made from fish tins. | Courtesy Four Chicken Gallery

Developers may dream of building a towering 50-story skyscraper near Ocean Beach, but a group of San Francisco artists is showing that big ideas can come in small packages.

Small Worlds, which comes to Bernal Heights’ Four Chicken Gallery this May, showcases a series of miniatures inspired by the City by the Bay’s charming neighborhoods and striking streets.

Mark McGowan's "Market Street Grindhouses" recreates a street scene of San Francisco cinematic history. | Courtesy Four Chicken Gallery

San Francisco native Mark McGowan, a former art director at the Exploratorium and leader of an independent design studio, brings a strand of the city’s cinematic history to life with his 11-foot-long street scene, Market Street Grindhouses. The small-scale street scene lines up historic Market Street movie-house marquees in a row for a mini walk down memory lane.

Sunset District artists Jamie Diy and Jacquelyn Scott craft pint-size restaurants and street scenes from their Ocean Beach neighborhood from castaway objects that one might find in a garbage or a recycling bin. One pocket-size patisserie is trimmed with lace and wallpapered with Perrier bottle and champagne labeling. A mini sushi bar made from fish tins invites onlookers to peer into the intimate restaurant with traditional, low-table Japanese tatami seating. If you’re obsessed with the assembly of literal tiny homes on TikTok, then this is the exhibition for you. 

Jamie Diy and Jacquelyn Scott's pint-size patisserie is wallpapered with Perrier and champagne labels. | Courtesy Four Chicken Gallery

But these small-scale looks into urban life aren’t all rosy or cute. Mission-based artist Ana Rivero Rossi’s Barbaric Times: Scale Model of a Settlement, circa 2010-2023 re-creates a tiny encampment community of tents. The diorama of small toys and ready-mades is presented as an archeological site in an imagined future museum and shows the devastating details of living conditions for unhoused people—from grocery carts overburdened by plastic bags to broken bicycles. 

Ana Rivero Rossi’s "Barbaric Times: Scale Model of a Settlement, circa 2010-2023" re-creates a tiny tent city to provoke thought on the state of unhoused people in SF. | Courtesy Four Chicken Gallery

The small but mighty exhibition encourages gallerygoers “to think about the way that they inhabit spaces, reflect upon who and what they choose to notice in their environment, and consider the forces that drive change,” according to a press release for the show. 

Small Worlds pops up for just three days in May, so mark your calendars. Follow @fourchickengallery for updates. 

‘Small Worlds’ 

🗓May 19-21
📍Four Chicken Gallery | 432 Cortland Ave., Bernal Heights