A Bit of Background


I met John in graduate school in the Art Department at San Francisco State University in 1967. We shared a love of Dada and Surrealism, an appreciation for Zen Buddhism and a delight in using any and all art forms we encountered. We were also avid collectors of almost anything that might be potential art material.

    John made art his entire life. He often used his art to make and keep himself whole. He was a very gentle man. He was deeply saddened by social injustices in the world. He always seemed to me to be dedicated to non-violence. However, except for his writings and the art he made, he kept most of what he felt inside.

    He identified very much with Abstract Expressionism in which he immersed himself while an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. The AE spirit remained an integral element of his work throughout his life. When I knew him, his heroes also included Kurt Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp, founding forces and exemplars of Dada.

     He created an umbrella organization for all his work and activities and called it The Dada Processing Institute (D.P.I.). He declared himself official Finder of the D. P. I.   I was made an honorary member.

    He taught a variety of art classes at Santa Rosa Junior College where he was a member of the adjunct faculty for about 25 years. He exhibited his work through the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery and showed in numerous one-man and group shows in San Francisco and in Sonoma County, California. He worked full and part-time in the Santa Rosa Post Office for over two decades often on shifts with very bizarre hours.

    John appears in many stories throughout the Nada Farm Museum of Archetypes website. Of special note are John Kessel's Flaw Orgy and The Plumber's Gloom.
I know that my experience and knowledge of JKK and his work is limited and incomplete. Should any of his family or friends like to add to the material presented in these pages or set the record straight or make any comments or suggestions please contact me at NFMOA. I would especially appreciate knowing if anyone has any old tape recordings of John's voice which I might be able to include in these pages.

    Most of the materials presented here are selections from the "NFMOA John Keith Kessel Archives" which primarily consists of poetry, writings, collages, drawings and small objects that he sent or gave me during the years 1967 - 1993. Several photographs have been provided by his daughter Andree Kessel and by John's close friend and colleague at SRJC, John Watrous.

    John created hundreds of other works during his life in a wide variety of media and forms. Perhaps some of these works will be able to be shown here some day too.

-Robert Comings

JKK Main Page Images of JKK Gallery Poetry Writings