April Dawn Alison is currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Artand boy is there a backstory there!
Hyperallergic's Bridget Quinntells it,
"A Bronx-born military veteran named Alan (Al) Schaeferlived alone in Oakland, California, where he worked as a commercial photographer by day, and by night (or mornings, or on weekends; we don’t know) created, cultivated, and carefully documented the life and times of an alternate self called April Dawn Alison. By 'carefully documented,' I mean 9,200 Polaroids, the vast majority self-portraits, taken over more than 30 years in the life of the artist, beginning in the late ’60s or early ’70s. The photos capture April Dawn Alison as perfect lady, glamor puss, fun gal, sex kitten, domestic goddess, object of BDSM desire, among other aspects of her personality. A treasure trove of both quantity and astonishing quality that, so far as we know, was never seen by anyone but the artist, until Schaefer’s death in 2008.
Schaefer’s possessions were tossed out or sold away after he died alone in his apartment at the age of sixty-seven. When the apartment’s contents of value — stereo, cameras, enlargers — were catalogued for sale, the estate liquidator held onto 14 boxes filled with Polaroids, sensing they might also be worth something. That he not only kept them but kept them together is an astounding moment of foresight and good fortune. This private archive came to the attention of San Francisco painter Andrew Masullo, who bought it all and in 2017 donated the whole lot to SFMOMA. A previously unknown oeuvre not just snatched from the jaws of oblivion, but now in an esteemed museum collection."
Curator Erin O’Tooleformed the Polaroids and materials saved by Masullo into an exhibition and book, published by MACK, with essays by O’Toole, New Yorker writer Hilton Als, and artist, LGBTQ activist, producer Zackary Drucker.
Curator O’Toole sifted through the archive for months and told Hyperallergic,
“The good news is that most of the pictures were made as part of larger shoots, rather than as single images, so I could analyze them in groups.
As I was choosing the final cut I was thinking about aesthetics and storytelling, as you say, but also about recurring themes, chronology, and how to give a sense of the sheer variety of the various personas, scenarios, and poses.
I wanted to represent the spirit of the entire archive and suggest its immense scale without overwhelming people with too many pictures.”
April Dawn Alison is at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Artthrough December 1
(Photos, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Andrew Masullo; via Hyperallergic)