Joan Archibald is being called “the California Vivian Maier.” Her work was locked in a shed for over 40 years, and only discovered recently after her death. Archibald abandoned her life as a 1960s Long Island housewife to start over in in Malibu as Kali. Once there, she created an enormous body of work — primarily photographic prints and polaroids that she altered and transformed into what I can only call psychedelic visions. Saturated in color, blurred to a dream state, the self-portraits in particular are simultaneously haunting and enchanting. Recommended By Leah B., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The discovery of never-before-seen artwork — vivid, psychedelic, treatment-texured and intensely-colorful photographic prints and Polaroids — of a 1960s runaway housewife named Joan Archibald from Long Island, reborn in Malibu and then Palm Springs as Kali, has been gathered in a trade photo book for the very first time. Her prodigious output, which was rarely seen in the 60s and 70s and then locked away for 40 years, is nothing less than "California's Vivian Maier" according to Matt Tyrnauer in his substantial essay in this new book.
"The singular work of a California photographer, unearthed." — The New Yorker
Joan Archibald left her Long Island home and family in 1966, and ran away to the West Coast to reinvent herself as Kali and take up photography at the College of the Desert in Palm Springs. After palling around with the likes of Richard Chamberlain in Malibu, she moved to a house in Palm Springs once owned by Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee, and began creating "Artography" in earnest as Kali: haunting portraits and double-exposed landscapes made with film, developed in her large bathtub, and finished by hand coloring with dyes, spray paint, and even dirt and bugs, in her swimming pool. Trippy, painterly, intensely colorful prints and later Polaroids were made and seldom seen outside a tight circle (one muse was a teenage Cindy Sherman). She published a few pieces in photo magazines, but by the late 70s locked the work away in suitcases inside a locked shed, never to be seen again for over 40 years.
Kali's daughter, when cleaning out the house after her death, discovered the work and something more: journals and journals of photos from closed circuit TV monitors, copied and illustrated with diagrams, drawings and coded notes: she had been housebound for years, convinced that aliens and supernatural beings were visiting, spooking, and tormenting her, perhaps trying to make contact.
The discovery of the work by Kali's daughter Susan Archibald and her ex Len Prince is being heralded as a west coast version of the Vivian Maier discovery, and a limited edition release of a four-volume set of the work (Matt Tyrnauer essay monograph, Portraits and Landscapes, Polaroids, and Outer Space) was published to wild acclaim in the fall of 2021 (Kali Ltd. Ed., powerHouse Books).
The first major museum exhibition to show Kali's work will open at the Columbus Museum of Art September 10, 2022 and run through March 12, 2023, and travel thereafter.
About the Author
Len Prince is an American photographer whose work includes portraiture of film, dance, and music legends, fashion, nudes, and cityscapes. Publications include About Glamour (1997), Make Over Your Man (2001), Remembering Marvin Hamlisch (2016), as well as numerous prints and interviews in Vanity Fair, Interview Magazine, Essence, and Paper Magazine. Prince's focus on theatrical and entertainment photography has led to campaign work for several Broadway theater productions, including The Graduate with Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone, and Chicago with Gretchen Mol, Usher, Brooke Shields, Mel B, among others. His work is held at The Getty Museum and the Archives at Emory University. Prince resides in upstate New York.
Matt Tyrnauer is an award-winning writer, journalist, and director whose films include Valentino: The Last Emperor, short-listed for an Academy Award for best documentary feature; Where's My Roy Cohn? , and Studio 54. His latest projects include The Reagans, a four-part documentary series for Showtime and the documentary series Home, for Apple. Tyrnauer's upcoming projects include a multi-part documentary series The Rise and Fall of Victoria's Secret, the dramatic adaptation of his Vanity Fair article Once Upon a Time in Beverly Hills, and the dramatic adaptation of Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood with Fox Searchlight, written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Luca Guadagnino.
As a journalist, Tyrnauer has written for Vanity Fair, where he was editor-at-large and special correspondent; his work has also appeared in other publications including GQ, The New York Times, Architectural Digest, L'Uomo Vogue, and Numero. Tyrnauer is based in Los Angeles.
Brian Wallis is the former Chief Curator and Deputy Director at the International Center of Photography in New York, where he organized and co-organized numerous exhibitions including "Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self;" "African American Vernacular Photography;" "Ecotopia;" and "Weegee: Murder is My Business." He is the coeditor of Imagining Everyday Life: Engagements with Vernacular Photography (2020)