Outsider Artist’s World Tour 1976
Porter, Joe. [ALBUM] Around The World With Joe Porter, 1976.
A cloth bound album, 9 inches by 6 inches, giving every indication of having been bound by the artist, titled in biro and marker pen to spine and front board in black. 126pp. Upwards of 300 colour photographs, one or two to a page with only certain sections (mostly those dealing with India and Thailand) having images to recto and verso. The images are almost exclusively of bustling urban scenes of daily life, amongst a number of images of notable tourist locations, in India, Egypt, Morocco, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and The Phillipines, with the journey beginning in the artist’s home base of San Francisco. Several images are portraits of Mr. Porter, all are captioned, mostly with the location, often with some small occasionally humorous reference to the images content. The hand written title page of the album also has a small adhesive label printed with Mr. Porter’s name and address in San Francisco. The images are strong, clear and well composed, there is some light wear to the page edges and the cloth of the binding is somewhat grubby but more than acceptable. The content alone is great with its detailed depiction of life at the beginning of the well trodden tourist trail we are familiar with today, the experience must have been very different until the proliferation of cheap airfare; the Pyramids at Giza for example are looking considerably less battered than they do today. The deeper importance lies in the insight into the life and adventures of a San Francisco artist who wrestled throughout his career with the demons of mental illness and strong suicidal impulses. His career appears to have been just that: a careering progression from one success, or adventure, or disaster to another all spurred on by what he referred to as his “screaming demons.”
Little is known about the man, although his artworks were widely exhibited at one point and still appear for sale; apparently born Giuseppe Pietro Porta Trinchero Pescarmona in Torino, Italy, he ran away from home at 15, changed his name to Joe P. Porter and embarked upon a series of adventures that make Kerouac look a bit stay at home in comparison. He rode (and apparently wrote about) driving an Indian motorcycle from Missouri to Buenos Aires (his adventures were published under the name of Jose Porta in “Pan American Trails” and make striking reading), nearly dying in an earthquake in Managua, running a restaurant in San Francisco and being arrested and thrown in jail in Cairo, presumably in between these pictures being taken of him riding camels and visiting the Khan el Khalili bazaar. He taught painting from a studio in San Francisco in the 60’s, he would disappear for days at a time, produce a blizzard of new work, have a show, turn up, harangue everyone and get thrown out. On one occasion he drank paint varnish in an attempt to kill himself and seems to have spiralled into what would colloquially be referred to as “insanity” marked by increased production of his “palette fantasies” and further suicidal depressions. His artwork however remained saleable, he appeared at shows and art festivals and continued to wrestle with what must have been a terrifying condition. He wrote both fiction and non fiction until late in his life (he was born in 1902 and apparently died just shy of a century later) and it seems very strange that so little easily found evidence exists of his artistic output, long life and obvious struggles. A very cool object.