Alexandra Docili: a delicate visionary 

San Francisco in the 1960s was the center of counterculture thinking.

It was the time of the Summer of Love, the Human Be-In and Haight Street. Within this context, mild-mannered Bay Area artist Alexandra Docili began painting. Her works on paper, though clearly influenced by the times, emanate a fragility and delicacy rarely attributed to the decade.

An integral member of the Visionary Art movement begun in the latter half of the 1960s in San Francisco, Docili and other artists of the movement sought to interpret the era’s counterculture ideas.

"[Artists would take] skulls, dandelions, weeds … and bring them into these personal visionary worlds that were a lot like surrealism," said Robert Delamater of the Lost Art Salon, where the Docili exhibit, "Her Visionary Worlds of Natural Curiosities: 1965-1967," is on display through April.

Calling heavily upon mushroom iconography, fantastical underwater worlds and straightforward cataloging, Docili’s works, despite an overall sparseness, always reveal sensitivity. Her paintings are featherweight in tenor, with touches of surrealism and mythology.

In a piece that uses woodblock on paper, Docili has transposed the image of a jelly fish onto a grainy, yet dreamy, blue backdrop that adds to the work’s lightweight candor.

Regarding her watercolors, which dominate the collection, a quiet is infused, softening her surreal pieces, including one that features a peaked green dome reminiscent ofsomething from a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.

Like her contemporaries, Docili’s work heavily drew upon the "back-to-nature" philosophy; some of her studies seem torn straight from the notebooks of field scientists.

Docili studied at Mills College in Oakland. She later completed two years at the now-defunct Rudolph Schaerfer School of Design in San Francisco. While in her 50s, she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute and excelled under the tutelage of William Geis, Deborah Remington and Jay Defeo.

"This is not the work of a young girl," Delamater said. "This is the work of someone in their 50s. That was one of the things that really impressed me about her ... she was tapping into the youth culture at the time."

Her Visionary Worlds of Natural Curiosities

Where: Lost Art Salon, 245 S. Van Ness Ave., No. 303, San Francisco

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, except until 7 p.m. Thursdays; closes April 30

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 861.1530 or

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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