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Art & Swimming & San Francisco Bay

Joan Brown’s bathing suits. Photo courtesy of J. John Priola and Zack Sumner Schomp.

1974 Photo by Joanne Leonard, SFAI Faculty member.

A lifelong open water swimmer, Joan Brown (BFA,’59; MFA,’60) and her husband, Gordon Cook (with glasses—printmaking faculty, ’62-’69) get advice from legendary swimmer, George Farnsworth prior to the August 1974 Santa Cruz Pier Swim while Manuel Neri (MFA, ‘58) holds their clothes. Brown was the ringleader of a group of women swimmers that sued the all-male Dolphin and Ariel Clubs to admit females. Always one to make art of her everyday experiences and passions, Joan Brown did a series of paintings based upon her bay swimming and her swims from Alcatraz and across the Golden Gate.

***For a deep dive into SF Bay and Joan Brown see Becky Alexander's essay, "Joan Brown's Bathing Suits," which is in the UC Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive's online exhibition Orbits of Known and Unknown Objects: SFAI Histories: Matrix 277:

With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.


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