Kali (Joan Archibald)

Mary 100 Ways, Flower Power, Palm Springs, 1970
Split Cindy, Palm Springs, ca. 1970
Half Face 3, Palm Springs, 1969
Fabric Mary, PalmSprings, 1968

Joan Archibald (born Yarusso in 1932, Islip, New York, US – died 2019), known professionally as Kali, was a US-American photographer.
Her work remained largely unrecognized during her lifetime. It was only after her untimely passing in 2019 that she is now being recognized for her ecstatic, experimental photography.
She was also called Los Angeles’s Vivan Meier after her daughter Susan Archibald discovered a trove of prints and negatives stored in white Samsonite suitcases after her death —apparently about 100,000 images worth.
Around 1962, Joan Archibald left her trumpeter husband and former life behind in Long Island and drove across the country with her two young children to remake herself in 1962 in California. She relocated in Palm Springs where she started black and white photography and learned to develop her images herself, using her pool for the task and adding painterly splashes of colour to her prints, reminiscent of other psychedelic art of the time.
Around 1964 she created the artistic persona of “Kali” after the Hindu goddess of power, time, destruction, and change. Her lost archive spans five decades and contains three stylistic periods landscapes and portraits, polaroids, and outer space. A distinctive part of Kali’s work is self-portraiture, seemingly exercises in exploring different personalities through Polaroid. In many respects, these works anticipate the photography of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, taken a generation later. Kali was known to combine as many as eight negatives to make a print, overlapping and layering images. Other times, she’d use spray paint or toss on sand. Although she successfully trademarked the term “artography” (around 1967) to describe her painterly photographs, only one article about her work was published, in the November 1970 issue of Camera 35 magazine. The exhibition “LA Woman: The Photographs of Kali” (2022) at the Columbus Museum of Art was the first museum show that will tour to other institutions after March 2023.

Polaroid book

Kali: Artographer
By Len Prince, Matt Tyrnauer 
powerHouse Books 2022
ISBN: 978-1-64823-021-9