Every now and then the work of an artist hits you and hits you hard, sweeps you off of your feet, even. You see it for the first time and suddenly you know that up until this point you’ve been waiting for it to be there all along. Like love at first sight, you might say . . .
. . .if you love pictures of treacherously rigged schooners and comic book thugs wielding blackjacks (which we do).
We also love these things, whatever the hell they happen to be.
Our fondness for Beauparlant’s drawings, and perhaps why they continue to register so strongly is in part due to a vague familiarity that defies the age of the work (most of what we have is dated in the 1920s) and the specific subject matter. In the skewed perspective and non-linear paneled narratives there’s a sense of curiosity and imagination run amok, something that we’ve all experienced, but which most of us have either lost or given up.
But what really gets us going are the unanswered questions concerning the artist himself. We could (and maybe should) take the work at face value, but with all the little clues offered on the reverse of each drawing how could we not try and piece together Beauparlant’s biography?
For example, we’ve got snippets of schoolwork:
And both his father’s name (J.A. Beauparlant) and address (2330 Washington Blvd, Chicago):
We also think we may have found an odd bit of information online (how many J.A. Beauparlants could there be?):
So how did a collection of drawings done by a seventh grader in Illinois over eighty years ago end up in San Francisco? We haven’t the slightest idea. But damn it, we’re going to find out! Because, to be perfectly honest, we don’t have much else to do.