A new honey bear mural, this one with a nun's habit and white face paint, went up this week on the side of SoMa queer bar Powerhouse at the corner of Dore and Folsom, and it's a tribute to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — as well as part of the Sisters' fundraising efforts during this weekend's virtual Easter celebrations.
"To me, [honey bears are] a universal symbol of happiness,” artist fnnch said in an interview last spring after he began using his popular street meme to raise money for local nonprofits. "[The honey bear is] positive. It’s nostalgic. It’s inclusive," he said.
The honey bears began appearing, with N95 masks on, last March on April on the plywood panels that boarded over many businesses around town. "A boarded-up store is depressing," fnnch said at the time. "I want to brighten people's days — these are tough times."
And then the image took off as a collectible. Over the course of the past year, fnnch has helped raise over $300,000 through sales of limited edition honey bear prints — last month we noted his "Movie Bear" prints which were being sold to benefit The Roxie Theater in the Mission. And this latest effort is to help out the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who would typically have been raising funds themselves at various events all year long.
As Sister Celine Dionysus explains to SF Weekly, she got the idea to reach out to fnnch after being elevated this past year from novice status within the Sisters' organization — the first sister ever to be elevated over Zoom — and taking on the role of arts patroness.
"I’m not naturally gifted as an artist, but it gave me an understanding of what my role is within that group dynamic: I can elevate the people who do know how to do this,” she tells SF Weekly. "I’d been noticing fnnch through the news was raising money on behalf of nonprofits, and as somebody who is now collecting art, I tried to purchase his prints — but his gallery sales are so quick, if you don’t pull the trigger right away, you’re done. He has very strict rules about edition sizes."
But now, as the Sisters get ready to host their second socially distant, streaming Easter celebration and Hunky Jesus/Foxy Mary contest on Sunday, fnnch is going to be selling a run of 50 paintings 11"x 19" paintings — spray paint on maple plywood — and 130 18"x 24" prints of "Sister Honey Bear" in an online sale on Sunday, with half the proceeds going to the Sisters. Also, the Sisters will be doing a blessing of the Powerhouse mural and the artwork on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the corner of Folsom and Dore.
The Sisters are SO very proud to present, SISTER HONEY BEAR!!!!! The Sister Bear Painting and Print will go on sale...Posted by Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Inc. on Friday, April 2, 2021
Funds raised from the art sale will go to the Sisters' Grants cycle, in which they distribute funds to LGBTQ organizations across the city.
They will also be auctioning off a signed bear —signed by the Sisters and Saints of the SF SPI House — on eBay after the regular sale ends.
"When you think of what makes the culture of San Francisco so cool, the Sisters come to mind," fnnch tells SF Weekly. "They are emblematic of the spirit of the city. I love living somewhere where you can see a drag nun walking down the street. It was an honor to work with them."
You can tune in to the Sisters' Twitch broadcast on Sunday, April 4, starting at 1 p.m. — on the SF Queer Nightlife Fund channel. The Easter program will feature performances by Juanita MORE!, BeBe Sweetbriar, Madd Dogg 20/20, Miss Shugana, Mutha Chucka, and more. And the event will be hosted by Honey Mahogany, along with longtime Easter hostesses Sister Roma and Sister Dana.
Photo: Darwin Bell