Moving to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. in 1989, Margaret Kilgallen (b. 1967, Washington, D.C., U.S.; d. 2001, San Francisco, California, U.S.) became an integral part of the Bay Area “Mission School” and began contributing to a lively DIY visual art scene with roots in graffiti art, underground comics and skateboard culture. Trained as a librarian and book conservator, her knowledge of book and printmaking processes contributed to an interest in techniques such as letterpress. These influences were brought to bear in large-scale murals that filled rooms and covered exterior walls. Made without the use of stencils or projections, Kilgallen’s works privilege the handmade and the direct, evoking an almost vanished America in which craft practice reflects a conscientious investment in the here and now.
Kilgallen’s paintings often feature images of women engaged in a diverse range of activities, from biking and surfing to fighting or simply walking around and frequently include fragments of lettering, usually in a “fairground” style that reflects the influence of vernacular folk art and commercial signage. Kilgallen’s warm palette derived in part from an admiration for Southwestern and Mexican painting. In addition to her murals, she also produced paintings in gouache on found paper. Kilgallen was a graffiti artist as well, using the names META and Matokie Slaughter (the latter an homage to the folk musician of the same name) and working primarily in grease pencil on freight trains in the moniker tradition. Kilgallen died of cancer in 2001, at the age of 33.
Craig Costello, Untitled, Going into Scrapyard SF, 1994. Digital pigment print on Canson Platine Ribre Rag mounted on sintra, 16 x 24 inches. Courtesy of Craig Costello.