I went, in part, to San Francisco to learn about the history of Underground Comix, and the role the city played in its development. I wrote about that elsewhere.
As I walked through the city, however, I encountered many examples of comic narrative at the street level. I’m sharing a little of that below.
You are great (in the Haight).
Not sure if this is social justice, but it was huge, surprising and cool.
The next two drawings were in a window, mostly likely drawn by a child. I wonder if they knew it would been seen by someone from the other side of the county, and posted on the Internet?
The next photos were taken in an alley in the Mission district. They were stunning, powerful and inspiring.
All these drawings and scenes were viewed by a visitor, documented and shared. And I saw a lot more, too. This tells me it’s worth making things like this and sharing them. You never know who will see it.
In an attempt to offset disappointment caused by the feeble San Francisco Cartoon Museum, the city of San Francisco offered up other delights, which provided several days of amusement, surprise and wonder.
As I mentioned elsewhere, my lady friend and I took a short, much needed vacation to attend a reunion. We returned home feeling rested and reenergized.
We stayed with friends who have raccoons that frequently visit the inside of their kitchen at night. Imagine their delight at having real, living raccoons in their home! So good!!!
Pearl Jam: Live in Two Dimensions
If I’m being honest with you, and, honestly, I’m always honest with you, then I’d tell you we were looking for a restroom when we walked into the Haight Street Arts Center.
To our surprise, there was a reception and a show of Pearl Jam tour posters.
I’ve never paid much attention to Pearl Jam, but look at all the neon goodness!
No trip to San Francisco should be considered a complete success without at least one trip to City Lights.
As we walked through many neighborhoods and districts, we stopped in every bookshop we encountered. I miss good bookstores, and realized how much I have missed by relying so heavily on Amazon’s recommendations. I discovered a lot of hidden treasure in these shops.
A Case for Making
We stopped in a small shop call Case for Making, where they were making water color paint. I’ve never seen water color paint being made, nor was I aware that there are fluorescent shades!
There were many other highlights, some of which are featured in their very own blog posts. A few will not get their own post, like the amazing burritos we had, or the naked man we saw standing on Castro street. Perhaps he wasn’t fully naked – he had a “Make America Great Again” hat on, with some flip flops. But, still. You don’t see that often in Baltimore, and it makes me love San Fransisco even more.
While cruising through SFMoma, my companion and I stumbled on the dye diffusion transfer prints (Polaroids) of April Dawn Alison.
The exhibition drew from over 9200 photographs of April, taken by herself, or, very probably, a photographer named Alan Schaefer. Schaefer worked as a commercial photographer, and doesn’t seem to ever have had any gallery shows or exhibits. According to his friends and neighbors, he loved playing tennis, jazz records and was known simply as ‘Al’.
No one knew that Al was also April. And no one had seen these photos until after his death in 2008. This collection was donated in 2017 to SFMOMA by painter and collector Andrew Masullo.
Al and April lived in Oakland, California, and April’s world seems to be completely contained in Al’s apartment.
There are many, many photos in the exhibit – I’m only sharing a handful here.
There is a joy in the photos I saw, which are beautiful, hilarious, enigmatic, and heartbreakingly sad. The work span more than three decades, beginning in the early 1970s, and then developing during the 80s into an exuberant, wildly colorful, and obsessive practice inspired by representations of women in classic film, fetish photography and advertising.
I wonder – did Al want these photos to be found? Would April want them to have been seen by the world? If they had it all over to do again, would April (And Al) have been happier and fulfilled if they had the chance to “go public” while they were alive?
My lady friend and I visited San Francisco earlier this month. I was excited to visit to Cartoon Museum to assist in some comic research I’m doing on the origins of underground Comix, which have deep roots in San Francisco.
Here’s text taken directly from their website:
Founded in 1984, the Cartoon Art Museum has something for everyone—from comic strips, comic books and anime to political cartoons, graphic novels and underground comix. People of all ages can view original cartoon art at exhibitions and screenings, produce their own comics and animation at classes and workshops, research deeply into our collection and library, and mix and mingle with professional and aspiring cartoonists. This unique institution houses approximately 7,000 original pieces in our permanent collection and attracts more than 30,000 visitors annually.
I wrote to them about a week ahead of time, asking if there was an optimal day to visit, and if there is a docent or someone from their collections that could help.
I never received a response.
What I found when I visited is not a museum at all, but a medium sized gallery. There is no collection on site, and no one with any knowledge of comix history. It was disappointing, as I had hoped to “research deeply into [the] collection and library, and mix and mingle with professional and aspiring cartoonists,” as indicated by their site.
The gallery had a collection of cartoony distorted portraits by John Kascht and some panels from EC Comics’ horror books. That’s it. After reading through the information panels EC comics, there is no scholarly insight about EC’s books or artists. All the information is already available on WikiPedia.
Below, on the comic rack, are printer copied covers of some EC titles, but not a real comic in sight. It’s a pretty appropriate metaphor for the “museum,” too. Looks good from a distance, but there’s no substance up close.
Friends, it’s not worth the $10 entrance fee.
Over a month after I emailed the cartoon museum, I received a response indicating that “We might have some people we can put you in contact with.” Ah well.