Perhaps the discovery of the decade! A veritable Vivian Maier redux. Photographer Len Prince's ex-wife's late hippy mom created--in nearly total seclusion, a mind-blowing body of experimental work, featuring surfers and hippy kids of 1970's Cali (including one teen Cindy Sherman!), and continued with experimental forms well up to her hermit-like retreat (not leaving the house for three years) to obsessively document... UFOs on her CCTV security system.
Joan Archibald was a suburban housewife with two kids living in Long Island in the 1960s. In 1966 she walked out of her house and never returned.
She ended up in hippy Malibu, living out of her car. She changed her name to Kali. She took up photography, taking pictures of Californians not much younger than herself. She hung out with Richard Chamberlain. She was loving it.
A year later, her mom bought her a house in Palm Springs–Bobby Darrin and Sandra Dee's old place–so the kids could visit. "An artist," she said, "needs to live alone to create." But she did allow the kids to stay the summer.
Susan, the girl, was a muse for her mom, dressing up and assuming made-up characters dreamt up by Kali; her summer friend Cindy Sherman also was a model in these photographic experiments.
Kali's large outdoor pool was in fact her giant finishing tank: after developing her prints in her Roman bathtub, she would toss the freshly developed prints into the pool with bottles of color and finishing agents, bugs and dirt, buckets of dye and paints, dancing in the pool with the artwork, tossing each print to the deck after achieving the perfect colorization that signified its finishing. Kali would emerge after hours of "finishing" her work, collapsing from exhaustion. Susan was in charge of retrieving the prints, after which they disappeared and were never seen again. Until now.
Susan moved away and got married, to Len Prince, and during the subsequent decades Kali became more and more reclusive, obsessively photographing the monitors hooked up to her house's extraordinary Closed Circuit TV security system, and making notes and drawings of the nocturnal "events" she witnessed overnight. Rain, moths, rustling wind became UFO visitations, for over three years she did not leave her house for fear of these uninvited nightly visitors. Estranged from her family, no one knew what happened to her until Susan received a call from a hospital. She reconnected with Kali, now suffering from dementia. Upon cleaning out Kali's house and settling her affairs, the mysterious lockers in the garage were opened, and Susan promptly had a stroke. Her ex-husband, Len Prince, a noted photographer in his own right, spent the next two years archiving and organizing the prodigious output of the eccentric and brilliant Kali. The archive, now with Emory University, is presented here for the first time.