1 Image 1 Minute

Micol Hebron

John Heliton, "John Stinson," ca. 1969.

“We just thought it was a neat photograph… It just showed John. Obviously, he was a black man who drove a mail truck, and he was also an artist, and he was having an exhibition [at my gallery].” Suzanne Jackson, the source of this quote, opened Gallery 32 in Los Angeles near MacArthur Park in 1968 in order to exhibit her friends, many of whom were emerging African-American artists such as David Hammons, Betye Saar, Timothy Washington, and Senga Nengudi.

In part because of this photograph, which fronted the announcement flyer for the show, Stinson’s exhibition attracted a large crowd that included politicians, government workers, and fellow mail carriers spilling out of the packed gallery onto the street. The photograph highlighted the artist’s day job–a job that undoubtedly supported his painting. Here is an image of a working man who, like many of those in the crowd and probably many of us reading this journal, had a full-time job to support an aspiring alternative career. Ironically, Jackson missed the Stinson opening because she had to work at the Loser’s club on La Cienega Blvd., dancing to make ends meet and to keep her gallery up and running.

Damon Willick, Art Historian

Further Reading