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Bad Boys / Bad Guys

exhibit - through April

March 10, 2024

by Joan Hall

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Both my parents were artists. My father was a sculptor and photographer, and my mother was a painter. My childhood was anything but traditional. My parents were true Bohemians. All the kids on the block wanted a mom and dad like mine. They were very permissive and usually let me do whatever I wanted.

I was enrolled in the Brooklyn Museum Saturday art class when I was seven years old. My first drawing was a copy of the Venus de Milo.

Mom had no domestic side at all. As she spent most of the day painting, her idea of dinner was to open a can of peas and defrost some frozen meat or fish. My dad worked as a department store window decorator, which I believe influenced my box construction assemblage art form.

We lived in an attic apartment in a stucco house that belonged to my grandmother. She lived downstairs. Occasionally she would babysit for me. She was not your usual grandma. I remember when I was a young child how she would scare me. She had a calendar called The Bad Boy Calendar. It was published in 1905. Each month featured a punishment for bad boys who were taken from their homes and placed in a reformatory. My grandmother used to point to the window. "Look Joan, the Bad Boy wagon is coming for you. They take bad girls too!" Terrified, I would run into the closet to hide.

I still have that worn, dog-eared calendar. I am amazed at the photographs. Some of them even look Photoshopped. I am sure those horrible memories influenced my artwork and my sensibility.

My parents imagined I would become a visual artist, but I wanted to be a dancer. They allowed me to take modern dance classes in the Martha Graham technique when I was 14. After I graduated from high school, I was accepted into Juilliard. After one year, I flunked ballet and couldn't return for the next semester. I was not a dancer! Then I joined The American Mime Theater and dabbled in acting. During that time, I continued writing poetry, and drawing.

While traveling through Europe I started collecting items of nostalgia such as old post cards, letters, and photographs, along with unique and curious little objects. That's how my journey in collage and assemblage began. In my three-dimensional box constructions, I could create little worlds of my dreams and nightmares.

Upon returning to New York, a photographer friend took photographs of my art and suggested I go to publishing houses to sell my art for illustrations. Almost immediately, I landed a job. That led to a long career as an illustrator and a teaching position at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. I was always busy, juggling between teaching, illustrating, writing poetry, and working on my own fine art.

Old-fashioned embroidery, with its flower patterns intrigued me. I imagined the craft as an art form. What if the embroidery theme was more edgy, even perverse. I began a series called Strings Attached, using burlap, embroidery hoops, thread, and digital photo. My rather dark sense of humor is a gift from my grandmother.

I am not very political, but the world situation crept into my artwork. In my Strings Attached series, there are portraits I call The Bad Guys, Bad Guys who in some subconscious way may be associated with my grandmother's Bad Boy's Calendar.

This past year, I had a successful 50-year retrospective in a large gallery in New York. Putting together a wide range of my artwork was wonderful.

I am now back in San Miguel, where I love to spend my winters. Presently, I am honored that the Galería Intersección in the Fabrica la Aurora welcomes me with my exhibition, Strings Attached.


Strings Attached Exhibit
Galería Intersección
Fábrica La Aurora

Joan's books:
Journey to Somewhere
Behind My Mind


Joan Hall: Several years ago, I had the good fortune to receive a Mexican/American Cultural Specialists Grant to go to Mexico for a ten day program to conduct workshops to train teachers on how to educate children about ecology and the environment. The program featured creating collages out of recycled scrap materials. Many of the teachers had never made artwork of their own and doubted their ability to do so. The results were amazing and rewarding. My collages have been exhibited worldwide, including the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. I had secretly written poetry since childhood, but never took it seriously until I entered a contest and won the Miriam Chaiken Foundation Award in 2018. I had to "come out of the closet" as a poet and give a public reading. I find that now I enjoy working in both mediums as one balances the other.


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