Steven Arnold: Epiphanies
Daniel Cooney Fine Art, NY
Daniel Cooney Fine Art mounts their first exhibition of vintage photographs by Steven Arnold (1943-1994). Arnold was a protégéof Salvador Dali, and although largely known for his photography, had broad creative interests including filmmaking, painting, illustration, set and costume design, and assemblage sculpture.
Arnold grew up in Oakland, California and attended Oakland Technical High School. His high school art teacher, one of his life-long influences, encouraged him to make his art "from the inside out", urging him use his work to "solve problems on a soul level".
While attending the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 60's Arnold traveled to Europe to study at the Ecole de Beaux Arts, eventually settling on the island of Formentera, off the coast of Spain. For several months he lived communally, taking LSD every day, experimenting with paints and costumes, taking up residence in caves, and exploring the small island. Arnold recalls: "This new drug was so euphoric and visionary, so positive and mind expanding... I ascended to another dimension, one so beautiful and spiritual that I was never the same."
Arnold resumed his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1965, turning his eye on filmmaking, and making several short films. In 1969, while working on his MFA, Arnold began filming Luminous Procuress, which went on to win him the 1972 New Director's award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, an invite to Cannes Directors' Fortnight, and an extended exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Salvador Dali, who called Luminous an "extraordinary, fantastic film", arranged an exhibition at the St. Regis Hotel to New York's artistic elite.
From 1982-91, Arnold found his niche, designing and shooting tableau-vivants. He also created a social legacy in Los Angeles, known as Zanzibar Studios. Arnold hosted nightly salons, which, according to many who experienced them, have never been equaled. He culled inspiration from his dreams, world religions, sexuality, fine art masterpieces, Jungian archetypes, social attitudes, excess, and artifice. Arnold woke each afternoon to sketch his dreams and visions, which he used as storyboards for his photography. These drawings also inspired many Arnold's paintings and assemblage sculptures.
Arnold was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988 at the height of his popularity and died in 1994. His works are in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, Cinematheque Francaise in Paris, SF MoMA, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.