San Jose Museum of Art
Joan Brown


This Kind of Bird Flies Backward: Paintings by Joan Brown1

Jodi Throckmorton

Associate Curator, San Jose Museum of Art


The deeply introspective paintings of Joan Brown (1938 – 1990) reveal the importance she placed in everyday moments, relationships with family and friends, and her spiritual state. Her art and life were inseparable. Over a career of thirty-five years, Brown was not afraid to go against the latest trends and attitudes in the art world. Although she never wholeheartedly identified with any specific group and, in fact, rejected such categorization,2 her work has been discussed within the context of many movements including Abstract Expressionism, assemblage, Bay Area Figuration, and New Image Painting. Little is written, however, about Brown's work and the rise of second wave feminism, which paralleled her career and had a significant impact on the visual arts. Her apolitical approach to subjects of domesticity, gender, identity, aging, relationships, and motherhood may be the cause of her exclusion; nonetheless, time has shown that her choices as a woman and as an artist were anything but neutral.


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