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Joan Brown in her studio c. 1981

We are pleased to share our video series reflecting on the impact Joan had as a person and an artist, both during her lifetime and after her death. Now, thirty years after her passing, we speak to those who knew her well, or only a little, but for whom Joan - either in her person or through her paintings - has continued to resonate. In the coming weeks we will continue to share shorts from the series, each touching on a different aspect of Joan’s personal and professional life and the rich legacy she leaves behind.

 

Part I: To start off the series we hear from friends, family, students, colleagues and admirers on what made Joan, JOAN. Among those who shared their thoughts with us are Brown's former students and colleagues, artists Brian Calvin, Enrique Chagoya and Katherine Sherwood; friends Sandra Shannonhouse and Mary Julia Klimenko, also a former model of Brown's; curators Philip Linhares, Jenelle Porter and Jodi Throckmorton; and Mike Hebel, Brown's widower.

 

Part II: We continue with comments about Joan’s art, the impression it made, its place in the wider community and how intertwined it was with her own life. Artists and colleagues including Katherine Sherwood, Brian Calvin, David Simpson and George Lloyd share their perspective as well as friends Sandra Shannonhouse and Mary Julia Klimenko; curators Janet Bishop, Jodi Throckmorton, Jenelle Porter and Philip Linhares; and Mike Hebel.

 

Part III: 

In the third installment of our video series we explore how the context of the Feminist movement related to Joan in her life and how her individuality and the complex ways her own feminism manifested itself in her work. Curators Jodi Throckmorton, Jenelle Porter and Janet Bishop share their thoughts, along with artists Katherine Sherwood, David Simpson, Brian Calvin and Don Ed Hardy, friends Sandra Shannonhouse, Mary Julia Klimenko and Lee Bender, a fellow swimmer and a co-defendant in a suit filed by Brown to integrate the San Francisco rowing clubs.

 

Part IV: In the fourth installment of our video series we consider Joan as an individual who was independent and determined in all facets of her life, the lasting effect her convictions had on those around her, and the way she translated her personal and spiritual beliefs onto canvas. Artists Brian Calvin, Enrique Chagoya, Don Ed Hardy, David Simpson and Katherine Sherwood share their thoughts, as well as friends Lee Bender and Mary Julia Klimenko; curators Janet Bishop, Philip Linhares and Jodi Throckmorton; and Brown’s widower Mike Hebel.

 

Part V: 

To conclude the series, we consider Joan’s legacy today and how the freedom she found in both her life and art has proven to be so influential and continues to inspire a new generation of painters. We hear from artists Katherine Sherwood, Brian Calvin and Enrique Chagoya; curators Jodi Throckmorton, Janet Bishop, Jenelle Porter and Nancy Lim; and Brown’s widower Mike Hebel.

Image and text

Joan Brown in her studio, c. 1981.
Image courtesy the George Adams Gallery Archives.
Photo: M. Lee Fatherree.

We are pleased to share our video series reflecting on the impact Joan Brown had as a person and an artist, both during her lifetime and after her death. Now, thirty years after her passing, we spoke to those who knew her well, or only a little, but for whom Joan - either in her person or through her paintings - has continued to resonate.

Click through the slideshow below to watch the complete series, with each video touching on a different aspect of Joan’s personal and professional life and the rich legacy she leaves behind.

Text/Image Swiper

Part I: First Impressions

We hear from friends, family, students, colleagues and admirers on what made Joan, JOAN.

Part II: Artist as Identity

We continue with comments about Joan’s art, the impression it made, its place in the wider community and how intertwined it was with her own life.

Part III: Artist as Feminist

We explore how the context of the Feminist movement related to Joan in her life and how her individuality and the complex ways her own feminism manifested itself in her work. 

Part IV: Artist as Individual

We consider Joan as an individual who was independent and determined in all facets of her life, the lasting effect her convictions had on those around her, and the way she translated her personal and spiritual beliefs onto canvas.

Part V: Her Legacy

To conclude the series, we consider Joan’s legacy today and how the freedom she found in both her life and art has proven to be so influential and continues to inspire a new generation of painters. 

Our thanks to the following individuals for their participation in this project:

Lee Bender, a friend of Brown’s and fellow swimmer of the Bay, was a co-defendant on a lawsuit suing for the integration of the San Francisco rowing clubs.

Janet Bishop, the Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, who is organizing an upcoming retrospective of Brown’s work.

Brian Calvin, the California-based painter, studied with Brown as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley.

Enrique Chagoya, the Mexican-American painter and printmaker, long based in San Francisco, knew Joan as his faculty advisor while at UC Berkeley for his MFA in the late 1980s.

Mike Hebel, an attorney and retired policeman is Brown’s widow.

Mary Julia Klimenko, a poet and psychotherapist who, for many years collaborated with Manuel Neri as a model, also posing for Brown many times over the course of 1976, resulting in the “Mary Julia” series.

Nancy Lim, an Assistant Curator at SFMOMA, who is co-curator on the upcoming retrospective of Brown's work.

Phil Linhares, the former Chief Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum of California also organized two exhibitions of Brown’s work in 1973, at SFAI, and in 1983, at Mills College, besides overseeing the 1999 retrospective exhibition at the Oakland Museum and UC Berkeley.

George Lloyd, a painter based in Maine, who lived and worked in Berkeley in the early 70s; his studio hosted a drawing group including Brown, Gordon Cook and Elmer Bischoff from 1972-1974.

Jenelle Porter, an independent curator and writer based in Los Angeles; from 2011 to 2015 she was Senior Curator at the ICA Boston. Her contribution “How to Draw Yourself” is included in the gallery's catalogue, “Drawn from Life."

Sandra Shannonhouse, the Benicia-based sculptor was, along with her husband Robert Arneson, a close friend of Brown’s.

Katherine Sherwood, the Bay Area painter was invited by Brown to join the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1989, where she is now professor emerita.

David Simpson, the San Francisco-based painter and a founding member of the Six Gallery, knew Joan as a student at SFAI and later hired her at UC Berkeley in 1974.

Tamsin Smith, a San Francisco-based poet and writer, she recently contributed an essay on Brown’s “Mary Julia” series for the gallery's catalogue, “Drawn from Life.”

Jodi Throckmorton, now the Curator of Contemporary Art at PAFA, curated the 2011 Joan Brown retrospective “This Kind of Bird Flies Backwards” at the San Jose Museum of Art.