Joanne Oldham

Sammy Harkham of Family recently edited and published a wonderful 48-page zine of artwork and memoirs by Joanne Oldham. I've included some of my favorite images and passages below.

The memoir excerpts in Good Morning No. 1 are incredibly moving, and I hope the full work will be published some day. Due to Joanne's remarkable honesty and openness, her tales of growing up in Louisville in the fifties take on a heartbreaking and near mythic tone. She writes that "much of [her] adult life has been spent unraveling the tangled web of my childhood," and reading her honest words I feel closer to unraveling my own tangled web, and what more can you ask for from a book?

"I was always disappointed with my finished art. It was never as good as I hoped it would be. At age seven, I was already judging myself by impossibly high standards; my mother, too, judged me by adult standards. In fact, I still have the Junior Art Gallery clay sculpture; when I look at it now, I can see that it was quite accomplished for a seven year old. Now, in my early sixties, making art has been a big part of my life for years, as much of a saving grace for me as reading was when I was six. When I draw, my muse speaks to me."

"The stallions I drew were copies of one on the covers of one of the first horse stories I read, The Black Stallion, but the stories I imagined about them were different. I had listened to the cowboy stories on the radio with my grandfather after dinner. I especially liked 'Straight Arrow' and 'The Lone Ranger' because both heroes had hidden identities. In bed at night, I lay in the dark and imagined that I had a stallion like the one in my drawings, a wild stallion, wild to every one but me. He was mine, and when I whistled my secret whistle, he thundered to my side in a flash. I whistled for him to save me from bad guys or to help me save good guys from bad ones. Then I galloped away on my stallion, leaving every one dazed and wondering who that brave little girl was."

"At home I drew horses in pencil on the blank pages in the front and back of my books. In Miss Brooks's class we worked on art projects twice a week. I made clay finger puppets of all the puppet characters on my favorite TV show, 'Kukla, Fran and Ollie.' Kukla was a cheery little bald guy with a round nose, dots for eyes and a high, squeaky voice; Ollie, my favorite, was a friendly but naughty dragon with only one big pointy tooth just under his pointy snout at the front of his huge mouth. I didn't care much for Fran, who was a human being, sweet but boring. There was also a snooty old woman puppet, Madame Oglepuss, who acted very glamorous, but with her huge curved nose and baggy eyes, was really ugly. When I wrote the cursive 'J' of my name at the top of my school papers, I always made it as a profile of Madame Oglepuss."

"The collage of the baby enjoying the frolicking alligator is me and it came to me in a very positive dream about fifteen years ago. The setting was the backyard of the house I have lived in for 38 years. In the dream the alligators were playful, filled with energy and not at all frightening. I did not come to terms with my father's death until I was in my fifties, after a dream in which I was able to look into my father's coffin and see that he looked just as he had looked in life--and then I cried for him for the first time."

Press release (edition of 500 copies):

Joanne Oldham has quietly been making art in a range of mediums for several decades. Though mostly known for a scattering of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy releases, including the iconic cover for I See a Darkness, the vast majority of this prolific artist and writer’s work has never been seen outside of her circle of family and friends. Intensely personal, warm, and often terrifying, her art is playful and mysterious, existing in a space of constant conflict. The debut issue of Good Morning dedicates the entire issue to a selection of work done over the last 25 years showcasing Oldham’s unique vision. Collages, paintings, drawings, as well as excerpts from Oldham’s memoir of growing up in the south in the 1950s are included, as well as biographical notes written by the artist herself.