April Dawn Alison

April Dawn Alison holding photos

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.

April Dawn Alison and her stats

Al and April lived in Oakland, California, and April’s world seems to be completely contained in Al’s apartment.

April Dawn Alison's legs
April Dawn Alison as a maid
April Dawn Alison in various states of undress
April Dawn Alison in a poodle skirt

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?

There is a catalog on Amazon from the show, if you are interested.

Catalog from SFMOMA'S April Dawn Alison collection.

The San Francisco Cartoon Museum

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.

https://www.cartoonart.org/about

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.

UPDATE

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.

Big Bird’s First Name

Big Bird’s first name is “Larry.”

Big Bird holding a basket ball.

My October Pals

An Altoids Smalls tin, with my fingers for scale.

A doctor, a devil, a pumpkin head, a skeleton, and a witch walk into a scene during the month of October. The skeleton asks for a glass of almond milk, and the witch passes him a glass and a mop.

Altoids smalls with a doctor, a devil, a pumpkin head, a skeleton, and a witch.

Small Stories and Other Stories

Small Stories and other stories.

I am a guest artist at the Hamilton Gallery in Baltimore. It’s a special honor to be showing here, because it’s in my neighborhood! Here are some of the particulars…

HAMILTON ARTS COLLECTIVE | HAMILTON GALLERY
is pleased to present the exhibition

Jim Doran: Small Stories and Other Stories

Exhibition run October 4 – October 27, 2019

OPENING RECEPTION
First Friday, October 4, 6-9pm

ARTISTS’ RECEPTION
Sunday, October 20, 1-3pm

5502 Harford Road
Baltimore, MD 21214

Link to Google Maps

This show feels a lot like the School33 show. Certain themes reveal themselves to me as I worked on this. There is the usual thread of macabre fun, but also some commentary on artists themselves, science fiction and a magnificent story around scissors. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working on this material, and as always, I must thank those closest to me for their patience, understanding, and encouragement. I hope you can make it. I will post exhibit photos below, as they become available.

In the meantime, I needed a sign for the front window, and this is what I came up with…

Neon Sign for Small Stories and Other Stories
Neon Sign for Small Stories and Other Stories
I’m not sure I made it bright enough….
spoons on the wall
Gallery view
Clock diorama and scissors
Early at the opening, people mingling
Artist Talk on a rainy Sunday
Small Stories Zines in a basket
Jim Doran