Irene Dogmatic: Desire Humor and outrage opens alongside the annual music festival and art market at Pro Arts: Stasis: A Festival Of Sound, Performance, Video & Art.

Irene Dogmatic actively started her career as an artist in 1972. She has lived and worked between San Francisco, New York, and Berkeley. Being both a visual and performance artist in SF in the early 1980s, she was active in the Punk Scene with her bands The Beautykillers and the Kahunas plus SST. Travel writing and poetry are a constant as is Correspondence Art which she became involved in during the 70s. Her first solo show at Pro Arts, Project Space opens on December 7 through January 3, 2019.

Dogmatic’s art is about her emotion and perception of the world and politics, “I have always found American Politics distressing and as time goes on it seems more polarized until now it is just over the top.”

Irene Dogmatic, Ship of Fools, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 52”

The work Ship of Fools is a very angry piece but is also meant to be funny. As an American slang, a turkey can either mean a clueless person or a play that is a flop. The Ship of Fools is a very old metaphor that may have originated with Socrates and has been used in literature and art throughout history and more recently has been used in popular music as well. A punk group called Reno Divorce even did an entire album called Ship of Fools. It has both a political and sexual context, depending on which musician is using it. The artist utilizes it metaphorically to show that how people in power can change and impact our lives. 

“This is gallows humor, which pokes fun at something that is painful to discuss, Turkeys are ridiculous but beautiful animals and when used with the rotten ship and the dark night sky and the long multicolored cord on the ship, they just give an impression of something bleakly amusing.”


Irene Dogmatic, Too Many Weasels, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 60”

Similarly, Too Many Weasels also uses animals as a metaphor: sneaky and sly people. The artist started this painting when she was angry about being treated badly in a store. As she worked on the piece, she began to enjoy the animals so that the anger turned into the fun of the animals. Blue Selfie is a self-portrait the artist did in reaction to the Brutalist movement in art. The show Tips of her tongue at the Broad in 2016 strikes the artist. She finds it grotesque. “Why can’t a woman portray herself naked in a pleasing way that is sexual without getting hung up on pain?” The Dog Costume Party is Mannerist as the artist would refer to. It uses dogs as symbols of people and incorporates a David Hockney piece in the background. It shows loving couples enjoying themselves with their partners.

Irene Dogmatic, Dog Costume Party, 2018, Oil on Canvas, 16 x 20”

Metaphors are in Dogmatic’s art constantly. Animals, birds, fruit, American pop symbols and cultural icons from her travels as metaphors for people, romantic themes, and sex. Her perception of the world is that “it is a vast and complicated place that has elements of good, bad and otherwise, wherever you are, and is in a constant state of flux.” She looks for images to photograph or get ideas for paintings from wherever she happens to be, and some get translated to paintings and some just remain photographic compositions. But painting is the most pleasurable act for her.

Public Programs

Opening Performance and Reception

Friday, Dec 7, 6 – 9 PM.

This exhibition is made possible by the Fleishhacker Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.