Friday, March 30, 2007

Surf in Art: Margaret Kilgallen




I first saw Margaret Kilgallen's work at a show she had with her husband, Barry McGee, at UCLA's Hammer Museum in 2000. I wasn't a surfer at the time, but I was still so enchanted by her world of women on rockerless longboards, palm trees, beautiful burnt colors applied directly on the walls, huge hand painted script. I was living in the Mission in SF at the time, and I recognized many her influences - the sign paintings, the graffiti, the Mexican murals - but the surf imagery was foreign. I had no idea there was a surf scene in the Bay Area, let alone artists who celebrated it.

A few years later, when I looked her up again, I was devastated to find out that she had succumbed to a battle with breast cancer. This was right after my wife was diagnosed with the disease, and I was becoming keenly aware of how uneducated America is about breast cancer, especially among young women. It broke my heart even more to find out she had a child, Asha, only a few weeks before she passed away.

I'm blown away by how much Margaret accomplished in her short life. Her work and Barry's will always resonate with me, not only because of their incredible aesthetic beauty, but with added subcontext of our shared experiences.

Tommy Guerrero - Thank You MK

13 comments:

Jeffery said...

You are freaking me out! I bought a t-shirt last night with the 'one fin' print on it. It seemed a little girly, but I love her work.

I bet we both get our periods on the same day this month.

Dub Resurrected said...

Wow that's sad and news to me. I did the Komen walk this past fall. Love Barry's stuff around OB and other parts of the city. Lived just down the coast in 2000.

And no idea there is was surf scene in the BA? Ever make it out to the sunset? Dude world class beach break, Ocean Beach within city limits. And you took up surfing in PDX? You coulda surfed eveyday without driving an hour and a half. I miss it : (

Chum said...

You have no idea, Dub.

I lived in SF, LA, and even Japan near surf. The thought only crossed my mind once or twice. But had I "discovered" it in those places, I may never have never moved here, or met my wife, or a million other things because when surfing takes hold of you, you tend to make decisions based around it.

Gazelle said...

Don't feel bad, Chum - that's what surf trips are for.

If it makes you feel any better, I lived in Japan too and never surfed. I've also been in Europe when the surf was pumping and didn't do anything about it. Shit happens...

surferbrat said...

Crazy. you just brought me to the realization that one of the surfers I see at my homebreak weekly is also one of my favorite artists. I've never seen a photo of Mcgee and now that I have, I realize I see him surfing with mad style all the time. Pretty cool. Great post sissyfish. Margaret's work is really amazing too and it's awesome you paid her homage. come to the bay area anytime and you'll get a welcome party for sure.

pushingtide said...

Luckily I got to see these Kilgallen and McGee drawings before they demolished the underground garage at a museum in LA. It was amazing and I took as many pics as I could. All that history is now rubble sadly.

Check out some pics:

www.publicartinla.com/LA_murals/Hollywood/lacma_garage/lacma_garage4.html

Toph said...

Just discovered your blog here a while back and have been checking in from time to time and had to chime in on this thread. I too am an ex OB SF head now living in PDX. I get sentimental when I hear about Margaret and Twist as I remember seeing their graf stuff on random beach alley buildings before either of them were really too famous. Those were fun days in OB...a pretty empty lineup most of the year...it was almost a secret that there was great surf in a major metropolitan city....then the word was out overnight....good to hear there are some other SF surfers feeling the pangs of consistent OB swells (and art)

Chum said...

By the way, I hope this post doesn't read like I know what McGee went through, because I'm sure losing Margaret was more painful than I can imagine. But I do understand the heartache of dealing with cancer treatment and having to come to grips with the mortality of someone you love so early in life.

Our job now is to keep people's awareness up about breast cancer in younger women. Seems like more and more gals in their 30s are dealing with it.

Nash said...

Nice one Chumly I am really enjoying the art tributes, keep them coming. I know we are all happy May-day is doing so well these days. Now if we could just convinve her to let you camp out with us a little more often during the summer...

clayfin said...

One of the Thomas Cambell movies is dedicated to her and when I saw the credits I wondered what was up and did a search. I was heartbroken to learn she had died. I knew of her but not in any detail. When I first started surfing OB you would still see those huge Twist screws McGee would do on the sea wall. I loved them and only learned who had done them when he finished his MFA and had some big shows.

Chum said...

Yep. Sprout is dedicated to her. One of my favorite surf movies of all time - but that's a given!

Totor said...

Is she the artist who made Tommy Guerrero's second album cover?

Chum said...

That's her!