Monday, October 10, 2011

Finding The Art of Wayne Quinn

In September 2011 I went to the annual sale put on by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.  I usually avoid this, as some of the book buying and hoarding public can be pretty vicious.  Some volunteers advised to come on the last day when things would be more mellow.  They were correct, by Sunday everything was priced at one dollar and there were still plenty of books. There was a crowd, but in general it wasn’t too crazy.  And I did find some more atlases for further adventures in map art

I think the real reason I was meant to go to the book sale was to find this one overlooked book titled The Art of Wayne Quinn.  The book was published in 1977.  It was from a San Francisco publisher house called New Glide Publications.  Online there is no reference to New Glide except in listings for books for sale – all published in the 1970’s.  Probably their most notable book was Word is Out, a companion book to the documentary of the same name. 

The Art of Wayne Quinn has 95 pages of excerpts from the artist’s journal with color images of about 20 oil paintings, including detailed images.  Quinn was a realist. The clothing and hairstyles in some the portraits are clearly from the 1970’s though there is an out-of-time quality to much of his work.  Clearly ignoring many of his art contemporaries, Quinn worked in a style that seems more in place among America’s Regionalist Artists of the 1930’s.  It’s work that brings to mind such artists as Andrew Wyeth and Grant Wood.  One can imagine if Grant Wood had lived to a ripe old age and finally fled Iowa for San Francisco, these would have been the sort of paintings he would have been doing in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Finding the book, made me curious to learn more about Wayne Quinn.  The book itself offered little biographical information other than that he was born in 1941 and raised in Upstate New York and had lived in San Francisco since 1963.  35 years after the book was published, the internet would provide me with some answers.  Wayne Quinn was nearly nowhere to be found except for this one brief blog posting. 

Considering Wayne Quinn was nowhere to be found online, lived in San Francisco, and was born in 1941, I assumed the worst.  I found Quinn’s 1987 obituary from the Bay Area Reporter on the GLBT Historical Society’s database.  The obituary was brief with few details.  Two of his friends have recently added a few remembrances of Quinn.

Further searching on his full name, Wayne Douglas Quinn, these items online:
  • A reference to an honorable mention award he won at an art show in Palm Beach in 1973. 
  • I did find reference to another book of his work called Fourteen Line Drawings published in 1973. 
  • He also did a painting of Mt. Sutro. 
  • His work was shown at the Jehu-Wong Gallery.  The Upper Market gallery operated from 1971-83.  Some documents from the gallery as well as two of Quinn’s paintings are listed in the Smithsonian’s archives of American Art. 
  • One of his paintings is at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art. 

All said there was not very much information out there.  If you come across this blog entry and have things to share about Wayne Quinn, please let me know.  The book was a real find, and I’d like the opportunity to preserve Wayne Quinn’s memory.  He is an artist who should not be forgotten.

Update June 2017:
Thank to a commenter on this post I discovered and just finished reading Mark Abramson’s book Sex, Drugs & Disco. In 2015 Abramson published his diary documenting his wild life in San Francisco during the late 1970s.   Mark was an admirer and eventually became friends with Wayne Quinn mentioning him a number of times in the diary.  He even refers to the Wayne Quinn book that started this blog post. Mark modeled for a nude sculpture Wayne did. There is also a 1979 photo of Mark at an opening of Wayne Quinn’s work at the Tyson Gallery in San Francisco.  He mentions meeting the collector who bought the sculpture and says:
“I could tell right away that he was disappointed to see me in the flesh.  He probably had fantasies about that body on the statue he bought, and I didn’t match them at all.  I wonder what he’ll do with it now.  It must have cost him a lot of money.  Sorry.”
I really want to see a photo of that sculpture, where is it now?
Mark mentions further modeling for Wayne Quinn.  The diary also mentions gallery shows in New York as well as Wayne’s work appearing in Architectural Digest in 1979 (I plan to peruse some back issues at the library). I am glad Sex, Drugs & Disco is out there, it’s a fascinating read, plus offers a few more, albeit brief, glimpses into Wayne Quinn’s life.

Update September 2017:

A reader named Alan shared an image of this Wayne Quinn painting he owns.  It is signed and dated 1965 and appears to be in its original frame.  This was likely a very personal work by the artist.  Alan told me that attached to the back of the painting is a small plastic bag with a lock of red hair.  Will we ever know the identity of this handsome red head?

Alan inherited the painting from a friend, who said told Alan had bought it at a sidewalk sale directly from the artist.  The idea that Wayne had needed to sell this work on the street just makes me terribly sad.


  1. I own the Rocking Chair painting. I bought it on Market Street and was staying across the way at the Beck Motor Lodge.
    I also had two 12' x 6 screens he did as wash on canvas and a back portrait of a Japanese man with a tattoo in the same style.

  2. I posed for him and recently found the sketches he gave me and I just ordered his book of art that I believe the painting of me is name is Iris

    1. I just looked and yes, you are in the book I have - it's a great painting. Please email me via if you would like to share some images of the sketches and I'll do a new post.

  3. He was one of my classmates at New Paltz State (New Paltz , New York) 1958-62. He was a talented artist in college, and loved puns.

  4. I knew Wayne in San Francisco. A group of us when we were young lived together on , it was either, Cole or Carl Street . Before that we lived together around upper Noe. One of the roommate s was Eric Rudisill. I may not have the spelling of his name right. He did a nude of me and said I could have it if I paid for the oils. I didn't take him up on the offer. He had my feet jutting out of one side of the painting with white socks on.Good times .

  5. The book "Sex, Drugs, and Disco" (available as a Kindle book) by Mark Abramson includes memories of Wayne Quinn. I actually ended up on this page looking for more information about him.

    1. Thank you for telling me that. I just requested the book from the Library. - Tofu

    2. I met Wayne through a college friend, Sean McVey, who later co-owned the McVey/Richter Gallery on La Cienega in L.A. Wayne gave me a signed copy of his "The Art of" book which I still treasure. The Mcvey/Richter Gallery opened with a showing of John Quitman Lynch- another remarkable artist, and I think they later (early 70's) showed Wayne's work. Wayne was a remarkable and extraordinary talent and man. h.michael wieben

  6. I knew Wayne somewhat back in the 1970's when he was living on Henry St. in the Castro. As a former art historian, I had a passing interest in his art and bought a copy of his book "The Art of Wayne Quinn". Oh, why didn't I buy something of his!! He was friends with a very gay-friendly married couple in Atherton who bought one of his pictures, don't know which. Would love to know where these pictures have gone. Adam Donovan

  7. Hi - I just ran across your blog this morning. I remember Wayne very well. What a character! There's also a sequel to my book called "MORE Sex, Drugs & Disco" if you're interested, with many more mentions of Quinn.