In conjunction with Italian Street Painting Marin, Gary Yost’s “Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall into the Sea, Eventually: A Meditation on Impermanence” documents the creation of an 8×10-foot mural, which was washed away shortly thereafter, as planned, by the arrival of heavy rain.
Over the past several years, Mill Valley filmmaker Gary Yost has been leading a campaign to restore the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais to its pre-Cold War stature, before it was carved up and bulldozed to make way for a radar station and military barracks that have long since been abandoned.

In doing so, Yost has shown boundless creativity in casting his lens from and upon the Sleeping Lady, created a number of short films to make the case for restoration, from his widely lauded film “The Invisible Peak” to his viral video time lapse from the Mount Tamalpais fire lookout.

His “latest Valentine for Mt. Tam” is a doozy.

Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall into the Sea, Eventually: A Meditation on Impermanence,” uses a DJI Inspire 1 drone to capture breath-taking footage of the creation of a 8×10-foot mural of what a restored Mt. Tam would look like. Longtime Mill Valley artist Genna Panzarella created the chalk mural on February 4, timed just prior to the arrival of heavy rain, hence the 8-minute film’s title.

“This project has also opened up a whole new connection to the mountain for me,” says Panzarella, who has lived in Mill Valley for 42 years. “I love the way the clouds fit in with the open space and the interaction in the way the city nestles at the bottom. People who draw see their subjects differently before and after. For me, now when I look up at Tam, I know how much it has changed me to have been up there and to see it through. It’s all been very amazing.”

Yost connected to Panzarella through fellow Mill Valley residents Sue and Joe Carlomagno, the founders of the Italian Street Painting Festival, in which Panzarella has participated for more than 25 years.

They’re my heroes,” she says of the Carlomagnos. 

Yost deployed the DJI Inspire 1 in a way that dips in and out of Panzarella’s real-time creation of the mural, seamlessly moving between her process and the beauty of the cloud-covered mountain itself.

Yost’s efforts to restore the West Peak gathered momentum in 2014 behind his film “The Invisible Peak,” which charts the history of the huge section of the mountain that was bulldozed six decades ago and now is little more than concrete foundation slabs, remnants of utilities and the scarred remains of the military’s 30-year use of the land.

He built on that momentum with screenings at the Civic Center and presentations to groups like the Mill Valley Historical Society and the Rotary Club of Mill Valley. For the presentations, Yost created a timeline of all of the research he did in making “The Invisible Peak.”

“I had this huge file of research – it was just sitting in a filing cabinet,” Yost says.

MVHS member Bob Hemstock connected Yost to Northwestern University’s Knight Lab timeline project, which allowed him to create the timeline using little more than a spreadsheet and Flickr page.

The timeline spans from views of the West Peak in January 1890 to a 1940 map of military sites on Mt. Tam and eventually to the November 2014 creation of OneTam.org, which serves as a hub of the efforts of the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative, which includes MMWD, California State Parks and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, to restore the West Peak, among other projects.

“Ninety percent of that stuff would be unknown to any Mill Valley residents, even if they grew up here,” Yost says.

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