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Steven Arnold
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Oakland, Calif.
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
West Hollywood, Calif.
Multi-media artist Steven Arnold created posters, photographs, assemblages and costumes and published four books of photography, but is best known for his avant-garde films. Born in Oakland in 19143, he graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1961 and enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute with a full scholarship. In the spring of 1964 Arnold left the Art Institute and enrolled in the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, but stayed only for a short time before moving with other Americans to Formentera, one of the Spanish Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, for several months while experimenting with LSD. Arnold returned to the San Francisco Art Institute in 1965, earning a B.F.A. degree in 1968. His student film “Messages, Messages,” (1968), made with his fellow student Michael Wiese, drew critical attention at film festivals in Cannes, France, Chicago and Toronto and was shown at the Palace Theater in San Francisco’s North Beach district in 1969. Its success led Arnold and Wiese to suggest that the “Nocturnal Dream Shows,” a series of late-night weekend film screenings, be established at the Palace Theater; the series became very popular among the City’s hip crowd. By 1967 Arnold was designing posters, including posters for The Matrix, a San Francisco nightclub featuring such bands as Blue Cheer, the Charlatans, the Steve Miller Blues Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service. He also designed posters for “In Gear,” a clothing store on San Francisco’s Haight Street, including one in the Museums’ collection. He showed his paintings, drawings and sculptures in San Francisco galleries during the early 1970s. Arnold became involved with the San Francisco performance troupe “The Cockettes,” who first appeared at one of the Nocturnal Dream Shows at the Palace Theater and were encouraged to go on stage by Arnold. He included the Cockettes in his film “Luminous Procuress,” (1971) created while he was completing his M.F.A degree in photography at the Art Institute. The film won a prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival, was exhibited in the Bay Area and then in New York City in 1972, where it came to the attention of Salvador Dali (1904-1989), who threw a party there for Arnold. Arnold began studying with Dali in Spain in 1974. Arnold later settled in Los Angeles, where he created books of photographs, paintings and assemblages, designed sets and costumes for theatrical productions and exhibited his art. Arnold died of AIDS in West Hollywood in 1994. (TNB 12/2016) Selected bibliography: "Steven F. Arnold, Photographer, 51,” New York Times, August 12, 1994.