Chris Sullivan: Slept Here, 1992Chris Sullivan

I think it was 94 or so when I met Chris Sullivan. He was doing a show in Bakersfield that had an odd cross-section of work. Part of it was photographs of mattresses.

He began finding them on the streets of San Francisco, and dragging them back to his studio. He said it was amazing that it took him so long to figure out that he could just cut off the fabric cover, without dragging the whole beast back with him.

Long before William Wegman hit it big with his photographs of his dogs, Chris was doing much the same thing. He stopped, because though he did it first, he didn’t want to be thought of as a Wegman imitator. Art is like that. Once somebody else starts doing the same thing as you, what’s the point?

Chris told me that when he got to the San Francisco Art Institute, the influence of Ansel Adams was still strong. He knew that he couldn’t compete on the “fine print” battleground, so he had to find something else to do. I’m glad. I think Ansel Adams is the most horribly overrated photographer of the twentieth century.

Chris had his staged tableaus, similar to Wegman. He had the mattress photos, photos of tumbleweeds and oil drums in a Duane Michaels sort of style, and he also had some interesting series done with the aid of a photo booth in his basement apartment. He had photo-strips of himself after waking up, after smoking a joint, etc. Just good clean experimental fun. But by far, my favorite was his “Journal of the Public Domain,” a series of Xeroxes and artifacts found on the streets. He just displayed the objects, rather than photographs of them.

When Consumptive pointed to I got an odd sense of deja-vu. There was no mention of Chris, who in my mind, will always be a pioneer in the realm of mattress photography.

1 thought on “Mattress”

  1. I am an old friend of Chris Sullivan. I’ve been out of touch for several months and was doing an internet search and found your page. You wouldn’t happen to know his e-mail?Nancy Leah Dunlap

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