January 25–April 23, 2023 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY ART MUSEUM & PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE
It was an amazing event. We are very happy that we made the trip to Berkeley for this.
Keith Wilson and Vincent Fecteau curated the exhibition. The opening featured the Curators’ Talk. It was hard to see how these two guys who had never even met Frank would be able to capture the depth and vastness that is Frank and his work. They were going to be speaking to an audience that included many people who knew, love and worked with Frank.
Their presentation brought tears to our eyes. Their talk was a duet … a tag team … getting deeper and more real with each turn. By the end you could see Frank there speaking through them as they channeled him.
Looking at the photos it looks like a night at Burnt Ramen between acts with the mix of art outlaws mingling and hanging out together in the magic that Frank always brought. It was so warming to be with everyone, enjoying …
BAMPFA presents the paintings of Frank Moore — a performance artist, poet and so much more
Opening Jan. 25, exhibition focuses on the lesser-known body of work by the Berkeley countercultural activist who was also a playwright and filmmaker. Sponsored by Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Jan. 19, 2023, 8:38 a.m.
Frank Moore’s portrait of musician Patti Smith was recently acquired by BAMPFA. Credit: BAMPFA
If you spent any time at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus during the 1970s, you may have encountered a young man in a wheelchair with a mischievous smile and a long pointing stick strapped to his head of unruly brown hair. If you approached this man, you might have seen a colorful sign on his lap with a simple invitation: “Talk to Me.”
This was Frank Moore, one of the most distinctive and distinguished artists to emerge from Berkeley’s counterculture scene during the 1970s and ’80s. A Berkeley original, Moore (1946–2013) was known by his many friends and admirers as a prodigious poet, painter, playwright, performance artist, musician, filmmaker, shaman, presidential candidate, and public access television impresario. He was all of these things and more, all while living with a disability that limited his speech and motion but left his creative spirit unbound.
Today, Moore’s legacy lives on in his voluminous archives of art, film and written work, held at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. This year, Bay Area audiences will have a fresh opportunity to discover a portion of that material starting Jan. 25, when the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive unveils Frank Moore / MATRIX 280: Theater of Human Melting — the first museum exhibition dedicated to this extraordinary artist. Unlike previous exhibitions of Moore’s work, Theater of Human Melting focuses specifically on his paintings, a comparatively under-recognized aspect of his creative practice that is overdue for rediscovery.
Frank Moore as visiting artist at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1991. Credit: Linda Mac
Born and raised in San Bernardino, Moore spent his early adulthood at the Brotherhood of the Spirit commune in western Massachusetts and among radical communities in New Mexico, where he wrote articles for progressive publications under the pen name Unicorn. After relocating to the Bay Area to attend the San Francisco Art Institute, Moore became widely known for provocative performance art presentations that incorporated nudity and eroticism as well as shamanic practices and time-based elements.
In 1978, Moore converted a vacant storefront on Bancroft Avenue into The Theater of Human Melting, a workshop where he developed performances, wrote screenplays, and mentored fellow artists. Constantly experimenting with new forms of expression, he brought his creative vision to public access television in the early 2000s, producing a weekly arts program that later transitioned into a web series. Like many Berkeleyans of his generation, Moore was also active in radical politics throughout his life — most notably as a write-in candidate for President in 2008, when he ran on a platform of “radical love.”
The latest installment in the museum’s MATRIX program for contemporary art, the exhibition of paintings at BAMPFA offers a rare glimpse at Frank Moore’s prolific output as a painter, which is less widely known than his performance art but no less central to his practice.
Working with a paintbrush strapped to his forehead, Moore used oil paint to render evocative still lifes, landscapes, and portraits, ranging from anonymous nudes to pop culture icons like Batman, Darth Vader, and Frankenstein. Twenty-nine of these remarkable works will be presented at BAMPFA, including two works that were recently acquired for the museum’s permanent collection — one of which is a portrait of musician Patti Smith, Moore’s close friend and collaborator.
Silversurfer by Frank Moore. Credit: BAMPFA
“We’re delighted to present the first museum exhibition of Frank Moore right here at his hometown museum, which will reintroduce our audiences to an artist whose singular vision was shaped by this vibrant creative community,” said BAMPFA’s Executive Director Julie Rodrigues Widholm.
“Given Berkeley’s proud history as the birthplace of the disability rights movement, it’s especially meaningful for us to revisit the work of a Berkeley artist who was unbound by his physical limitations, and whose spirit of artistic innovation and inclusivity continues to inspire.”
Theater of Melting is guest-curated by Vincent Fecteau and Keith Wilson, both working artists with deep connections to the Bay Area, who will present a curator’s talk at the museum on Jan. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
To provide additional context on Moore’s life and work, the curators have chosen to feature the experimental video Let Me Be Frank, playing on a loop in the gallery. Although Moore is credited as the director, the segment was produced posthumously by his family as the opening sequence for a video series based on his autobiography, “Art of a Shaman.” Let Me Be Frank serves as a boisterously joyful introduction to Moore’s creative vision, driven by his passionate belief in the ability of human beings to connect.
Of related interest, selected papers from the Frank Moore Archive will be on display in the exhibit cases on the 3rd floor at The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, Feb. 1–April 21.
Here is the original article from the Berkeleyside
oh, the cool living within the shade of the big oak! The girl swinging On a high branch Looks down And sees my bright Pink and yellow petals, Jumps down to smell me And lies beside me To listen to the music Of the oak leaves Playing with the summer breeze.
All my life I have been sheltered By my friend the oak, Being protected from Hard rain, Gusts of cold wind, And hot sun, So that my gentle beauty Can grow strong & bright Within the circle Of vibrating shade… Refreshing shadows of living together, Rooted together Within just being together. Ah, my friend, The oak tree!
“Koala Bear”, oil on canvas, 22” x 30”, 1975 by Frank Moore
For Barbara Smith’s 70th Birthday by Frank Moore Friday, June 29, 2001
It is too late For THEM to defeat us. We have made it to the gravy years! We have lived rich lives, Within a deep web of Tribal community relationships, Deep into shamanistic rituals Playing, Surrendering To the magic Without limits Sitting on the mat In the universal room of hidden imagination, Feeding Every body who comes in A magical feast of contact connecting flesh rituals, Growing, working the garden together Walking together Within small circles of evolution, Of risks, Dangers, Trust, Deep pleasures! Yes, my fellow playmate, They have failed To take the riches of living Away from us. Sure… They raped us Tortured us Pretended we were just feeble-minded silly foam But we have transformed All that into our web Of change Damn! Ain’t that what life, Art, Magic Is all about anyway?
And now it’s too late for them!
They can kill us, Put us in prison, Take everything/everybody from us, Erase us from memory, But we would still have our life, Our changes, Our melting Into the universal tribal body Their only hope Is us taking our lives back By doubting, By stopping playing, Touching, Enjoying But fat chance! We are having too much fun!
Ah yes, My dear, We are in the GRAVY YEARS! And the gravy Is rich, Hot, And spicy… Just right To be poured Over winter squash!
“Jackie”, oil on canvas, 32” x 40”, 1977 by Frank Moore
For Erika by Frank Moore, Sunday, September 01, 2002
Really There is no beginning, No ending, No leaving or going, No stages or signposts You came with an urge To expand Into yourself Outside of your skin Into your body Outside of what is known or comfortable This terrible urge of yours Is the same urge That’s exploding The whole universe In all directions Without itself You came to dance With me Within your dangerous urge, To battle demons With me, To play And explore pleasure Freedoms, And fears With me… Always dry wisecracks And shrugging off Misgivings Loudly Before you leaped But you leaped Every time into the expanding Rings of vulnerable power Of becoming… Becoming The gentle tides That wash away The sand fortresses Of isolation Which appeared so massive solid, Just dissolved, Melted harmlessly. Yes, you became The gentle spring rains Erasing the hard chalk lines Drawn on playgrounds
By bullies… “If you step over this, you sissy!” Now the ghosts and demons Seem just silly fearful creatures, Only barely visible Running away From your bright, glowing body, All juicy and relaxed Yes, You have expanded, Are expanding, Into enjoying life, Dark and rich And we, You and me, Have expanded lustfully Deep inside each other, Body and soul, Cozy home rooted in love, Fellow warriors and lovers Carrying each other Deep inside There is no leaving for the likes of us, Just a never ending graduation Of us playing together In the ever pushing urge to surrender Into the ever new unknown
“Batman’s Face”, oil on canvas, 40” x 40”, 1976 by Frank Moore
It is natural Human To create happiness Within our combined body Living together Just a part of enjoying Being together Infusing Melting Surrendering into one another.
This is pleasing, Caring, Just being together In being enough, Not going anywhere, No separation, Floating together In turn-on, Doing the dishes together Cleaning house Making love Cooking dinner Feeding one other Within our body Without anything to prove Or to show… Just actively following Together the flowing Blood within us. THIS IS PLEASING.
It is fashionable today, Backed up by correctness, To refuse to please. But this “pleasing” Isn’t our pleasing. It’s appeasing. There is nothing within our body To appease! The wife appeases Her abusive husband To not get clobbered… The 18 year old girl Appeases her parents To win love, approval, Whatever… To escape a fist Of power. Appeasement Is coins feeding The meter Of isolation And separation.
“I don’t want to please anymore!” is bleak, cutting the heart out, sealing active surrendering, melting, infusing up in a cold cell. And this is why Appeasing / Running away Is fashionable Today.
NOT VERY PLEASING… OR PLEASURABLE!
I ain’t writing This so-so poem To please you Or appease you… It just came out Of our body of loving/enjoying Being together… Just like kissing, Washing dishes… IF I KISS YOU TO PLEASE YOU It would separate us, Would be denying.
“Tracey Is Ready!”, digital painting, 2001 by Frank Moore
For Kirsten For her birthday by Frank Moore, Monday, July 21, 2003
Outside of town, Behind the field Where the carnivals And the traveling preachers Set up their tents, There is a woods, Deep & dark & dense… Nobody knows how far back it goes. Everybody knows to keep out of the woods That always threatens to swallow the town up. Everybody? Not quite! The crazies and the moonshiners , The forbidden lovers, And the lovers of the forbidden, And wild, untamed children, All find cover for their sacred crimes Within the hiding edges Of the woods. But not the sane, The respectable, The normal… We never go near the woods, With its saber-tooth tigers, Giant leather birds, Rabid wolves, Razor grasses, And the deep hidden pit traps With generations Of the bones of corpses. I’ve heard tales Children getting sucked Into the dark heart Of the cruel woods, Wandering out years later Naked, muttering gibberish, To spend the rest of their days In THE HOSPITAL OF MERCY.
Me… I never went near the woods…. Until now… Until I started talking to Indian Joe. People say he’s drunk and crazy. But his breath is sweet; His words are clear, Infecting my brain and heart With longings for new possibilities. He lives deep in the woods! He tells me stories of THE CREATURE KIRSTEN, The spirit/body dwelling Within, Just within!
So here I am, Walking into the woods, On a quest for the unlimited unknown. There’s a ball Of excited pleasure In my belly As I pass through the community of outcasts, And leave them behind On the edge. I just walk and walk, Deeper into experience, Smelling Live and Death All mixed up. Everything is melting into everything, Not staying within skin. Colors and sounds Intense, clear, But blending into me. My brush presses swirling Into the fleshy paint pot, Presses firmly into bright surreal Colors, Cool colors on the woods’ floor, Sunlight vibrates through the leaves, playing music with the birds & the water. Is it Kirsten? Is Kirsten in me? I’m walking in a joyful creek, Cool gentle on my feet, Alive finally! Enjoying the mud, The smooth yellow stones Enjoying walking, Exploring, Surrendering, Merging. I hear hearty laughing, From a sexy belly. Must have been me Because I don’t see anyone else. I hear sobbing Which sinks reality deeper. I hear “FUCK!” that explodes into my very being! Not my voice… Too much raw emotion. It’s her! I keep walking, Going to the source Of the creek. There are balls of mud clay, Maybe eggs Each with a unique design. I keep seeing more of these objects. Magical? Ain’t everything in these woods Magical? Was Kirsten born from one Of these mud eggs? Did a child play-make these mud realities, Or a primitive? Questions seems so silly Within this God! So do my clothes! I leave both behind. Keep walking, Exploring. Everything is fusing together. Every move causes warm pleasure. I can’t tell what is me anymore. Don’t need to anymore! Just keep walking to the source!
I’m now…. Mmmmmm! I’m indeed now! But I mean I’m now At the source of the creek, A spring of purity. Outside a crude comfort hut, A creature stirs a soup pot, With a keening wail, She climbs a tree! With a wild laugh, She right here with me, Sharing nude skin pleasure Rubbing herself into me, Taking me into her, Fusing bodies, Simply enjoying being together, Being enough! She keeps changing, Snorting at the sheer fun Of our dance/play. She keeps changing. An old hag Croaking sex hexes, A young girl Full of wonder, A lusty sexy seducer, Now she split into a whole tribe. We are home Sitting around the fire Cooking the soup… She keeps throwing red hot peppers in Along with other things she gathered. I stir the pot as she dances Beyond time with others in our tribe. All their voices and bodies are within me. I’m within their dances As I stir the pot. We grow old together As we wait for the soup To chill. We can wait Because we are in our tribal home Of being enough. Then she pours in the moonshine. This cold hot pepper moonshine soup Has such a kick!
Damn, Why didn’t I go into The woods of imagination Before? Well, I’m here now… With you!
People sometimes ask, “Where is your work heading? What do you want to do next?”
It is not my work. It is not my choice.
For me, it is not a question of a next thing. It is a growing, evolving vision. I am carried along in this vision of life, of art. A performance does not have a beginning or an end. It is just a tiny bit of the vision. The vision braids around itself, flowing on. I do not know where the vision is taking me. I have not been down this vision before.
One thing’s for sure. We humans are not the end of evolution.
“Sunset Rise”, digital painting, 2010 by Frank Moore