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Tomata du Plenty : backstage at Hinckley’s



Who remembers the shows at Hinckley’s on Polk St?
Hinckley’s was an infamous gay bar opened in 1972 by twin sisters Lorain and Roberta Hinckley at 1111 Polk Street in San Francisco. Quickly, the club became a regular weekend hotspot during the disco craze. In the late 70s, they began letting local new wave bands play weeknights and immediately these shows became popular with the punters. Many bands had their SF debuts there, including Mary Monday, Leila & the Snakes, IceCreamers, The Don’ts, Minivans, the Avengers, the Mute Ants, Snuky Tate, Eggs!, and the Mole Persons. MCs Neil Hamburger and Dirk Dirksen tested out their new material between bands. Eventually, neighborhood noise complaints, continuous plumbing problems, and underage drinking caused the landlord to stop the punk shows in 1980. By then the Fab Mab had taken over as punk Mecca in the city. And Hinckley’s faded into the shadowy meat market of lower Polk.

In April I recreated the club and backstage for one night at the SF Art Institute’s 2017 Gala. It included a whiskey bar, live bands, art-filled backstage, and cheesy “hospitality table” which the well-heeled patrons gobbled up. The five portraits of Tomata I painted over collage and were snapped up by buyers soon after the show. Here’s a closer look at the Tomata’s Orange, Blue, Cherry, Green, and PurpleRare footage of the bands playing Hinckley’s. I meant to sing four songs in each set, but a flu-from-Hell trashed my voice and Mia Frightwig came to the rescue. All walls (skulls and flyer paintings), as well as the graffiti sofa, are available for purchase. Please contact Penelope with questions.

The installation and event took place on April 29th, 2017 in Studio 8 (the filmmaking studio) at SFAI. Pics below and in the SF Chronicle.

Other alumni artists creating “art bars” installations included Bonanza: Conrad Guevara, Lindsay Tully(MFA 2013), and Lana Williams;  David Best;Katie Bush,  David Janesko and Adam DonnellyKunstCapadesTim Sullivan (MFA 2004), Joshua Pieper, and Robyn Carliss. Ian Treasure( and Cathy Lu , Kerry Laitala , Tom Loughlin  and Supermrin and The Confidential Theater, Whitney Lynn  and Tony LabatMads LynnerupLorena Perez VillersTaravat TalepasandAla Ebtekar, and Amir Esfahani.

setting up installation

Pros at work

Two skulls

Beer or whiskey

Penelope’s short-lived glory

Mia saved the day

God’s Little Princess

rainbow farts backstage

Beautiful backstage spread

Joel M. Few and the sofa

Everyone loves defacing property




Well hung in LA

LA art show Apr 2017

LA art show Apr 2017

My first solo show at a commercial gallery was worth the trip. Thanks to Billy Shire and Matt Kennedy of La Luz de Jesus Gallery.
I missed the opening due to an Avengers show the same night (600 miles away in SF) but flew down the next weekend to do a gallery talk on April 14th, 2017. Here’s a partial video of the talk shot by Joseph Lee.

The Muzzlers that didn’t sell will be offered through the gallery until October.



This guy went home with my friend Tom. A bit of reserch and I found his arrest name had been anglicized from Krsto Babajko to Chris Babeco. An unfortunate waiter from Jugoslavia, born 130 years ago this month.

Penelope’s first LA gallery show is open: Muzzlers!

Yes, I’m pretty excited and I hope you’ll be able to see the work while it’s up. And buy a pair.

April 7th-30th, 2017.
La Luz de Jesus Gallery 4633 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.
Opening Reception: Friday, April 7th, 8-11:pm.
Sadly, I can’t make the opening due to an Avengers show the same night, but I will be there for my…
Artist Talk: Friday, April 14, 7-9:pm.

Here’s a little interview I did regarding the show.

The price is $1920 per set.
For purchase info, contact gallery director Matt Kennedy.
By phone: (323)666-7667
By email:

A one-day exhibition of mugshot paintings in Oakland

A one-day exhibition of mugshot paintings which will soon be sent to LA for Penelope’s first professional gallery show. A separate series of prints will be for sale.

March 12th from 1-5:pm at Land and Sea, 5428 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

“Muzzlers” is a series of oil portraits Houston undertook last year, based on original black and white photographs from police records archived at the San Francisco Public Library, where the artist has long held a day job. She discovered the images in mug books titled “Prostitution” and “Muzzlers” – slang for sex crimes. Each portrait is a diptych – front and side views – with the accused’s name and alleged violation burned into the side panels. Although the series harks to a time when sex workers were “low women” and gay men could be charged with “crimes against nature,” Houston’s light and sensuous impasto treatment performs a kind of literary time travel, drawing these individuals forward to a contemporary sensitivity, revealing and in a sense returning to them what the original arrest documentation took away – their essential humanness. Mixing subtle shadings of emotion – melancholy, remorse, shame, even defiance – with direct looks almost painful to meet, Houston creates a reckoning between subject and viewer: who’s judging whom?

“One hundred years before the selfie,” says Houston, “photography was an elaborate proposition and the demeanor of the suspects at that significant but unwelcome moment of the policeman’s shutter click is uniquely unmasking. I was struck by the difference in expressions in the frontal shots – pleading or defiant – and the more withdrawn introspection in the profile shots. I took pleasure in painting them, and in the process of discovering and getting to know these individuals. But more than that, I felt a sense of obligation.”

Mugshot Slideshow

Twenty mugshot paintings are done and I’m starting a new pair today.
Here’s a tiny slide show.


The song is a live acoustic version of “Walnut (Now my heart is a small, black, hard, shriveled, rotten, little…)” from my appropriately titled Loners, Stoners, and Prison Brides album.

The subjects are are Babe Russell, a dancer, 1919; Connie Woods, 23, 1919; Harry Kane, 52, 1921; Della Bohland, actress, 1919; Alfred Jolliffe, 28, 1932; Henry Friedrichs, 55, 1931; Sarah Alexander, 21, 1938; Chris Babeco, 32, 1921; Carolynn Wells, 23, 1938; William Williams, 35, 1919.

I painted these using original photographs that are in mugbooks archived in the San Francisco Public Library’s SF History Center. The women are from a mugbook titled “Prostitution” and the men from one called “Muzzlers” -slang for sex crimes. But, just because a person is arrested does not mean they are guilty. For instance, one was arrested for “Crimes against Nature” which back then meant being homosexual. Thankfully those old laws have died away.

Eventually, I will have an exhibit and the paintings will be for sale. Galleries and collectors please contact me with any inquires.

Muzzlers series 2/3 finished

For the last 5 months I’ve been painting a series of oil portraits of mug shots. The subjects are from mug books found at SF Public Library’s History Center on the 6th floor. The arrestees are “muzzlers” and prostitutes from 1919 and 1932. There are some amazing faces to work with. The photos are black and white so I am creating my own color palette. The hair and eye color, as well as height, weight, age and offense is noted with each photo and supply clues to their true appearance. I’ve spent some time researching each individual (when possible) and found whole, sometimes tragic, life stories. On the wooden edge of each panel are the names, ages and penal code burned in with my handy woodburning kit.

I will try to post some of the stories I’ve unearthed. In the meantime, here’s a link to a timelapse video up on FB:

Watch video


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The subtle mind of Steven Wolf

This year I got to know gallerist Steven Wolf of Steven Wolf Fine Arts and viewed his curated exhibit on Punk at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. We engaged in a lively “Artist/Curator Conversation” put on by the museum. Back in SF our continuing dialog included a studio visit where he uncovered my book of hand-tinted xerography from 1977. It went up in his gallery in the Wall of Sound show in July/Aug 2012. I have to laugh remembering how this piece was handed in as a final project at SFAI and resulted in a FAIL for my painting class. This was a year before they started their Emerging Genres dept. Seen here covering a whole wall beyond the amazing musical sculptures by SRL’s Matt Heckert, and 70’s era collages of David J Haskins of Bauhaus – the band – not the school.

Library Prints exhibited at the San Francisco Main Library

Seemingly a permanent display, my prints have been up at the Main branch of the SFPL across from the Jewett Gallery for 8 months. Sooner or later they will come down, but for now you can check them out there.

The exhibit is called Put a Librarian on It and features nine silkscreens on collage done in late 2011. Here’s the artist statement for it:

Although some may be more familiar with my career as musician and punk rocker, I am also a longtime library employee and visual artist. This series of portraits presents my coworkers as the everyday heroes who make the San Francisco library an inspiring and enjoyable place to work and visit. Starting with photos, I have created line drawings, which are then silk-screened onto collages constructed from the detritus of our workplace. The artistic use of found materials was inspired by a recent exhibition of Kurt Schwitters’s collages at the Berkeley Art Museum. From thrift stores and Friends of the Library book sales, I’ve assembled old novels, books on exotic birds, Texas longhorns and Kau Cim (Chinese fortune sticks) as well as library pocket-cards, used scratch paper, date due slips, and old homework. These materials will continue to age and yellow over the years, emphasizing the individuality rather than sameness of each print in the editions. The printmaking technique referred to as “rainbow roll” also allows an almost accidental process that results in unique images. The variety of materials and the serendipitous nature of the work expose the different characters in all of us. From City Librarian to custodian, police sergeant to library technician, our team is a great collage of people working together to build the institution that San Franciscans have supported for 100 years.