Sheltering in Place: The Secret Life of April Dawn Alison
Navel gazing can get a little old, so, in the coming weeks (months?), as we find ourselves counting the hours till lunchtime on the sofa, we look for productive and creative ways to spend our days. In hopes of inspiring each other, we’ll be sharing some projects by photographers who have used the medium to explore the crevices and vistas of their home or neighborhood.
In the still cloudy 1970s the dawn of April Dawn Alison emerged tentatively, in black and white photos. Made over the course of some thirty years, these photographs depict the many faces of April Dawn Alison, the female persona of an Oakland, California based artist who lived in the world as a man. This previously unseen body of self-portraits discovered upon the artist's death comprise a trove of approximately 9,200 Polaroids which were given to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2017. By the 1980s, Aril Dawn blossomed into an exuberant, wildly colorful, and obsessive practice inspired by representations of the women in classic film, BDSM pornography, and advertising.
These extraordinary pictures explore a wide range of feminine archetypes, revealing an imaginative inner life filled with as much humor as pathos, as much joy as loneliness. Together they compose an intimate personal archive documenting a dynamic, evolving self, an unsolved mystery to others. Posed in the safety of her home, Alison presents herself in her full beauty and humanity in a way she may not have felt free to do in the world, even here in the Bay Area.
See more from our Sheltering in Place series here. A show of April Dawn Alison was on view at SFMOMA from July 6–December 1, 2019