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SFAI History: Dorr Bothwell, Tattoos, Samoa


Dorr Bothwell: Self-Portrait with Tattoos, Samoa, 1928; watercolor and ink on paper; with permission of the Estate of Dorr Bothwell and the Archive of the Mendocino Heritage Artists.

“Well it’s done. Four hours of mild torture and I am tattooed ‘foasamoa’!!” Dorr Bothwell, in her 1928–29 journal, described receiving her first tattoos in Samoa. Bothwell studied at SFAI throughout the 1920s; traveled to Samoa, where she lived from 1928 into 1929; and then moved to Paris and Southern California before returning to San Francisco. She was a dynamic and influential teacher at the school from 1944 to 1949, and from 1952 to 1962, as well as a surrealist painter, noted designer, author, and color theorist.

For more on the long history of SFAI and tattooing see: UC’s BAM/PFA virtual 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.