Phil Frank: Eye Witness
A Retrospective of Phil Frank’s Assemblages,
Paintings and Cartoon Art
March 7 - April 26, 2009 / Curated by Dana Hooper with Susan Frank and Stacy Frank
“My father was much more than a cartoonist, he was a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a teacher, an artist, a historian, an explorer, a mechanic, an author, a poet and a great man. He lived three lifetimes in one.” Philip Frank Jr.
Phil Frank was a man of contagious enthusiasm and curiosity. When he died in 2007 he left an enviable legacy of thousands people, from widely diverse connections, who loved him.
Phil’s clever cartoon strip Farley ran in the San Francisco Chronicle for 22 years For ten years before it was the nationally syndicated as “Travels with Farley” until Frank transformed the strip into “Farley” focused on the San Francisco Bay Area and it became the only local daily comic strip in the country. That format allowed for immediacy as Phil, a keen observer of people and politics, voiced his insightful and witty commentary through his odd and endearing cast of cartoon characters and multiple story lines. It is hard to stop smiling when one reads a Phil Frank book of his compiled cartoons. He also carried his wit into his artwork, making delightful box dioramas, and clever assemblages among other works. Phil’s wife and partner in life’s adventures, Susan Frank has worked with artist and guest curator Dana Hooper to bring together this thoroughly entertaining Bolinas Museum retrospective exhibition of some of Phil’s prodigious creative output with input from Phil’s printmaker daughter Stacy Frank and designer son Philip Frank.
Another of Phil’s great passions was being a historian and that became a lasting gift to us all. Along with his many historian-friends, he helped awaken public appreciation for the richness of our local history. Phil’s affable character and genuine interest drew people into his quest to rediscover the complex past. He served as the President of the Sausalito Historic Society, worked tirelessly with the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmark Society and was the Bolinas Museum historian. He appeared in many magazine articles, usually in regard to sharing history. From 1996, Phil created exhibits for the Bolinas Museum history room that entranced visitors for a decade, until the room was remodeled in 2006. He also mounted several important history exhibitions in the main gallery of the Bolinas Museum. Phil co-authored the popular Arcadia history book Bolinas-Stinson Beach and created the Arcadia book, Houseboats of Sausalito. The Franks spent memorable time at their Bolinas home, which was of course historic, built in the 1800s by the son of the first Spanish settlers of Bolinas.
His other interests were to many to innumerate here, suffice to say, Phil lived with an energetic fervor. But in 2006 life suddenly took a sharp turn when Phil was diagnosed with brain cancer. Susan brought him to Bolinas for his last days, in a sunny house, surrounded by family. His ashes are buried at the Bolinas cemetery, along side many of the important men and women from Bolinas history.
Phil has been well celebrated since his death including the elegant bar at Cavallo Point being dedicated to him. But perhaps the event that would have brought the biggest grin to his face was a couple of thousand people gathering at Washington Square in San Francisco to celebrate him, most dressed up as one his beloved Farley cartoon characters.