In the summer of 2011 the Ratio 3 gallery organized the first solo exhibition in San Francisco of Margaret Kilgallen’s (1967–2001) work in 13 years. Considered by many to be one of the most influential, yet under-recognized, Bay Area artist of her generation. Kilgallen, along with a handful of other artists came to emergence in the late 1990s, as part of an art movement that is now commonly referred to as the Mission School.
The artist’s imagery includes her iconic motifs such as leaves, trees, topography, and female figures, all executed in a delicate and adept hand. Her style is beautifully simple and humble, almost folkloric, at times working with basically abstractions of color, lines, and repeating shapes. She was an avid reader and thinker, looking to Appalachian music, signage, typography, letterpress printing, hobo train writing, and religious and decorative arts to inform her work. In addition to her comissioned mural work, she was also a graffiti artist under the tag names “Meta” and “Matokie Slaughter”, the latter used specifically for freight train graffiti.
Kilgallen was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 and decided to forgo chemotherapy so that she might carry a pregnancy to term. She died in 2001, three weeks after the birth of Asha, her daughter with her husband and collaborator Barry McGee. She has since been the subject of several posthumous retrospectives.
I’ve become a deep admirer not only of Kilgallen’s simplicity in art but also her influences, her appreciation for craftmanship and her touching life story. What an amazing, inspiring woman.