This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown

  • Image

    Joan Brown
    The Journey #1, 1976
    Enamel on canvas
    84 × 72 inches
    Gift of Norman Lariviere

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Iʼm not any one thing: Iʼm not just a teacher, Iʼm not just a mother, Iʼm not just a painter, Iʼm all these things plus, and the more areas I can tap, the richer each one of the others will be. — Joan Brown*

Joan Brown (1938–1990) relentlessly painted her everyday life, family relationships, and dreams. Vibrant decorative elements, intense self-portraiture, and domestic narratives are her predominant subjects. Brown focused on small, personal moments: her son Noel dressed up in front of the Christmas tree, her birthday celebrations, swims in the San Francisco Bay, an evening at the opera with her husband.

This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown is the first in-depth examination of this beloved Bay Area artistʼs painting in over a decade. The exhibition is the first to explore Brownʼs art in the national context of the womenʼs movement: the movement paralleled her career, yet she has been largely excluded from its history. Yet, her pioneering use of domestic imagery, autobiographical narrative, patterning, color, and revealing emotional scenarios clearly predicts and reflects the new aesthetic territory forged by women artists in the 1960s and 1970s. Included in the exhibition are rarely seen works from private collections and the artistʼs estate that offer viewers a new look at Brownʼs body of work.

This Kind of Bird Flies Backward is presented in honor of Barbara and Ken Oshman in gratitude for Barbaraʼs service as a trustee and in memory of Ken, who inspired us all.

"She walked the walk, but she didn't talk the talk." (Jodi Throckmorton on Joan Brown).

*Interview with the artist by Lynn Gumpert in Early Work: Lynda Benglis, Joan Brown, Luis Jiminez, Gary Stephan, Lawrence Weiner (New York: The New Museum, 1982).


Oshman Family Foundation
Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts
Applied Materials
Deutsche Bank