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One of the pleasures in author Danielle Steel’s life is hanging out with artists, and when she gets the chance, she curates a gallery show. “Writing is so serious,” she says. “With art, I like to have fun.” So Steel built her summer around “WHAT?”, an exhibit asking creative types just that, opening Wednesday at the Andrea Schwartz Gallery in San Francisco.


“I flew in from Paris to install the show,” says Steel, who hasn’t spent time in her Pacific Heights home since May, when she narrowed down the pieces to show. Ready for San Francisco’s chilly August fog, Steel fit right into the South of Market gallery scene in her Chanel black leather pants and bolero jacket with rose details.


“I love emerging artists and contemporary work,” says Steel, herself an avid collector who owned and operated a gallery in nearby Laurel Heights from 2003 to 2006.


To help artists along, Steel offered her own take on the pronoun in January. “WHAT has no boundaries, no borders, it allows us to define things however we want,” Steel wrote in a statement. “It allows us to pry open doors and look inside. It allows us to question everything and focus on the object of our attentions, or affections. It allows us to stop someone and ask what they mean. It asks for a definition, demands it. WHAT is bold and takes courage.”


Her interpretation, written on her preferred tool — a manual typewriter — influenced Paul Gibson’s painting of an abstract trompe l’oeil tabletop. “I’m about the viewer moving in and out of the picture frame,” Gibson says.


Dana DeKalb’s paintings, with solemn-faced figures in apparel painted from old photographs, are engaged in waiting, watching or imagining. In her painting “Tribute,” onlookers in Sixties car coats, scarves and sunglasses wait for a celebrity arrival, from the perspective of standing on the red carpet. “It’s about how we look at each other,” says DeKalb, reflecting on the matter of who’s watching whom in the piece.


Likewise, in Gordon Smedt’s three impressionistic renditions of apparel — a Superman T-shirt, old jeans and three polka-dot sundresses — perspective is questioned. “I’m turning still life into portrait,” says Smedt. “[Danielle] has art parties [at her Sausalito house]. The whole yard is full of sculpture. She loves art and artists.”

Andrea Schwartz Gallery; 525 2nd Street; 415-495-2090;; “WHAT?” runs from Aug. 11 through Aug. 27.

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