Thursday, November 23, 2006

It happened in November

Remembering Jim Brightwolf


Visual Artist, Playwright, Art Activist, Writer, longtime Theater Director, Human Rights Advocate, Visionary, World-Citizen

1936 - 2006

"The arts and the Internet are the last free forms of media left for public power to express itself," - Jim Brightwolf

James Peter Brightwolf passed away in the early hours of Sunday, November 12, 2006, at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, California. He was undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer and died of a sudden unexpected heart attack.

Jim spearheaded the theater of public controversy. His passion for reclaiming the arts, both for social justice and for uncensored artistic expression, inspired people around the globe. In Stockholm, Copenhagen, London and Aachen, Germany, he protested the Viet Nam War through theater. In Johannesburg and Nairobi he worked against apartheid and assisted black South African actors to leave the country and join a world tour. He aided California Farm Workers and the Sanctuary movement, and put his Direct Action Theater techniques to the test in Sydney, Australia, with a commitment to free art from corporate and government control. Jim was always excited by the potential of San Francisco which he considered a world hub of freedom of expression.

"Jim, in his quiet but intense and dedicated way, was one of the most compassionate persons I ever knew and one who backed up his convictions with actions," - Ana Elsner


[See also: Remember Abu Ghraib (with related links).]


[Another tragic loss to the artistic community: poet, artist and musician Tony Vaughan]


(Photo Credit: Marsha Bellavance)
(Special thanks to: Mia Stageberg)

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Anonymous said...

Wake for Jim Brightwolf Nov 30th 9-10pm details.

Invitation only.
916 281 8268
x Stephen A Worsley

Thursday, November 23, 2006 8:16:00 PM  
Anonymous George Davis said...

Jim was an artist’s artist. He worked in theater as a playwright, director, and set designer. He was an accomplished painter, human rights activist, and espoused “direct action theater” for political activism. Few who knew him did not have a strong opinion on him. Jim was an international being who at times has lived besides San Francisco in London, New York City, Seattle, Germany, the Union of South Africa, and Australia.

Both his intellectually formative and his final years were spent in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. As a student at Stanford in the 1950’s, he knew well and was especially influenced by Kenneth Rexroth, “the father of the Beats”. Rexroth was a highly respected poet/translator and a pacifist-anarchist who spent World War II in jail for his views. Kenneth Rexroth’s greatest fame was as the organizer and M.C. at the seminal and embryonic Beat event, “6 Poets at 6 Gallery” reading. Jim Brightwolf also knew Alan Ginsburg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, et al.

Jim returned to North Beach for his final years. Among other activities, he spearheaded a drive to convert the old “Rossi Market” on Vallejo near Columbus into a community art space. (There are still discussions on this matter.) He helped organize a North Beach gathering on the legacy and art of Ezra Pound. He held an art exhibition of his art and participated in a few group shows. He wrote and produced a musical based on “Hamlet”. He supported a neighborhood movement to stop the “wharfism” of the gift shop at Coit Tower and create a Depression Era theme for the area by organizing a candlelight parade of theatrically dressed locals up Telegraph Hill. The parade was televised on several Bay Area TV stations. He participated in a 50th anniversary recreation of the “6 Poets at 6 Gallery” reading.

Jim frequently repeated observations like: “San Francisco is a Green City in a Red State in a Blue Country.” “The arts in America have been emaciated by corporate hush money.” “North Beach is a lotus land for artists; the living is too pleasant and easy for many of the artists to do consciousness changing art.”

Among other highlights and projects of Jim’s life are:
Once some friends found a dead cow; Jim joined them to paint it blue and drop it off in front of the Sydney Opera House. This made front page news.

In 2005, Jim and two friends tried to rescue two cousins and a brother of a Baghdad artist in Afghanistan who were being held in a U.S. contractor private prison. Jim and company were captured and held for three weeks under harsh conditions in this private prison. After an investigation by a United Nations Human Rights representative (who the United States got fired), Jim and friends were released. Two of the searched for parties were found and released. One of the cousins was missing and is presumed dead. There was an international scandal and headlines on the role of these contractors which the FBI and CIA denied any knowledge of. This story has dropped below the media radar because there are too many more outrageous and easily verifiable U.S. human rights abuses to report in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and the American extraordinary rendition of political prisoners to other countries to have them tortured.

In the 1960’s, Jim was a stage designer in New York City on “Oh, Calcutta”. This was among the first plays to bring full nudity to mainstream American theater. The play was a huge, long running success in New York City and London.

Jim was once a general manager and director of the Seattle Repertory Theater. The equivalent of San Francisco’s ACT.

During the Vietnam Era, Jim produced and directed several anti-war theatrical productions.

Jim once did the stage lighting and restaging for acts at the 3500 seat Circle Star Theatre in Redwood City. He worked with stars ranging from Sonny and Cher, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, Liberace, and the Three Stooges.

In the 1970’s, Jim worked as close as he could on anti-apartheid theater projects in the Union of South Africa. He managed to get several African actors out of the country for a world wide theater tour.

Jim visited Waco, Texas after the Korresh massacre by the United States Federal Government. He painted an interesting (to some paranoid) set of paintings on the subject. Jim also composed a rock opera on the Waco Massacre.

Jim frequently created “Dadaistic” styled anti-military theme paintings, sculpture, and mixed media. In recent years, he also experimented with an Australian aboriginal influenced style of painting.

In non-reproachable accuracy, Jim Brightwolf claimed that he always worked and lived the life of an artist, even when he backslided on commercial entertainment ventures.

The major criticism people have made of Jim’s life and work is that he was too set to “Save the World”. Jim was the first to admit to this. How many of us would love to have this as our final recollection?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 11:07:00 PM  
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