Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Culture Lust by Angela Carone

The Arty Side of Comic-Con: Margaret Kilgallen

A lot of people don't realize that there is some amazing art to be found at Comic-Con . No, I'm not going to argue for comic books or graphic novels as an art form. That argument has been made and should be well accepted at this point.

I'm talking about fine art produced by some of the country's young emerging and established painters, illustrators and sculptors. At Comic-Con, they were clustered in an area of the convention hall called Artist's Alley. I spent some time there this past Saturday, and over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my favorite discoveries with you.

I'll start with the only purchase I made at the Con. It's a book I bought at the Giant Robot booth (which isn't in Artist's Alley, but sells fine art prints and books). It features the work of Margaret Kilgallen , an artist whose work I've long admired. Her work falls into a category that gets labeled everything from urban surrealism, urban folk art, grafitti-based art, to contemporary urban narrative. I haven't heard a consistently used term, but a lot of the artists lumped into these various categories are written about in magazines like Juxtapoz and Giant Robot.


Margaret Kilgallen's Sloe, 1998

Kilgallen was married to grafitti/fine artist Barry McGee , and I saw both of their artwork a couple of years ago in the Beautiful Losers show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. I had just moved to the west coast and Kilgallen's work, though she never lived in the south, had a very southern, outsider-artist sensibility. I was homesick, and seeing her pieces reminded me of the southern outsider folk art that I loved.

Kilgallen was inspired by old signs and typography. For many years, she worked as a book conservator at the San Francisco Public Library, which allowed her to study different typefaces. I like that she focused on this kind of minutia, since typefaces are everywhere and generally go unnoticed by most of us.

Other inspiration for Kilgallen's work were old books, hobo train writing, carnivals, and old time, Americana folk music. Her love of folk traditions and storytelling are the cornerstone of her art. She was particularly fascinated with women in folk traditions and, being based in California, images of immigrant women appear often in her art. Kilgallen also painted hundreds of murals throughout the city of San Francisco, many of which have now been painted over.

Kilgallen's career really started to take off in the late 1990's. This is where the story turns tragic. Kilgallen died in 2001 at the age of 33, due to complications from breast cancer. Her daughter, Asha, was born a month before her death. Since then, McGee, her husband, has been raising Asha while continuing his own art career and keeping Kilgallen's work in the public eye.

The book I bought is called Margaret Kilgallen: In the Sweet Bye and Bye . It was produced in conjunction with a retrospective of her work at Redcat gallery in Los Angeles in 2005.

I recommend some time spent with Kilgallen's art in any way you can make it happen. Her work will transport you to an old-fashioned street culture all her own. Trust me, it's a lovely place to visit. Dale Mc Farlane AKA ' DAWK'
August 01, 2007 at 07:46 AM
Nice blog angela,but does any one realize(those with low incomes) are now not able to attend this monster of a show? This includes starving artists and then some. San diego is inflationary-enough,but placing this show in this town makes it very expensive,unless you have disposable income and more. let's see how much it costs (YOU) angela,after all your visits are done,not inclucing purchases,and perhaps we poor folks can develope a budget? Big animation-films have completly taken-over-hi jacked this show and created 'inflationary' situations,so tell me,how does the comic con staff come off telling and maintaining this show is 'non-profit'? There is much to discuss here,and you can contact me for more,as am a decades self supporting artist and know my business. cheerz from DAWK google "DAWK" and am on the first few pages with web sites etc. -----

Cathy Davies
August 01, 2007 at 05:07 PM
Great Blog I'm looking forward to seeing more about comic con. Last weekend was the first time for me and I am hooked. I cant believe it was only 25 bucks to get in. I got to meet some of my all time favorite artist and buy prints of thier work signed to me for as little as $15. Im looking forward to showing my oun work there sometime.Totally inspired!

September 18, 2007 at 03:06 AM
I first came across Margerets art in a juxtapoz mag around 98,99 and just fell in love straight off, i was not even aware this brilliant person had passed away until acouple of years back, what an great talent to be able to render that lettering the way she did! such a huge loss not just to American art but to world art,Steve B, Melbourne, Australia

Dan Flanagan
September 21, 2007 at 06:56 PM
Angela, I normally do not respond to bloggish stuff about Margaret Kilgallen, but it seems that you have a genuine affinity for her work. I want to tell you that your comment about her southern/outsider sensibility is correct. I was a close friend of Margaret, and shewas born and lived in Maryland, near the northernmost part of Appalachia and considered herself, as some from this part of Maryland do, to be a southerner. She learned to play clawhammer banjo from appalachian people and was very much influenced by the folk art of this region. Dan Flanagan