Paul Beattie


The following text is used with permission from Jason Steidman and is original research conducted by Jason who spoke for several hours on the phone to Paul Beattie's daughter.


Suffice to say Paul Beattie was one of THE most important characters in the development of using Projectors as an art form as early as 1954 (only two years after Seymour Lochs 'accidental discovery')


The use of the OHP as an instrument of light art can be traced to a region, and a subculture that began experimentation in the 1950s: San Francisco, and the Beats.​

Charles Perry’s Haight Ashbury has provided an origin that has risen almost to the level of myth in some circles: San Francisco State prof Seymour Locks accidentally discovered the magic of liquids in a clock face on an overhead projector while preparing for a special performance at a “conference of art educators” at the university in 1952.

While he made little of this initially, one of his students who witnessed the results – Elias Romero – went onto to develop this technique, and teach it to many others in the region.

The next thing you know, the ballroom scene emerges with the beginning of the hippie era, and there is a waiting population of liquid projectionists ready to fill posts at the soon to be opened Avalon, Fillmore, Carousel, Family Dog, etc.

But what had been happening with this art form in the time between its discovery, and its ultimate dissemination? Unfortunately, the goal of Perry’s book wasn’t to find out great details beyond Romero, but to briefly explain the origin of the immersive environments of the hippie music venues.

Since reading of the “Light Shows” section of the Perry book, I know I’m not alone in trying to imagine what San Francisco projection art might have looked like between 1952 and the mid ‘60s.

Paul Beattie’s work provides a glimpse into this medium at this time.

Paul Beattie was a visual artist who arrived in San Francisco from New York in 1954. He was relatively established in Manhattan’s East Village artistic community, and had already shown his work at Hansa Gallery, one of the highly reputed 10th Street galleries.

Beattie has an extensive (though not entirely accessible) body of work, having been actively creating until his death in the late 1980’s.

He is known to have been close friends with Elias Romero, and also artist Wallace Berman, having shown his work in Berman’s rogue Semolina Gallery (literally a shack “in the swampland on the edge of a canal off San Francisco Bay”.

He was also active as a saxophonist in the Bay area, lived in the apartment at 2322 Fillmore Street in SF (aka. “Painterland”), later made famous by Bruce Conner’s film, The White Rose.

Beattie’s work explored a variety of different media, including explorations in sculpture (he even experimented with mannequins in this regard), film making, photography, and his use of the overhead projector seems to have been merely a ‘phase’ in his career, but this took place at a time where there is currently no record of anyone other than Elias Romero doing so (Tony Martin’s work at the San Francisco Tape Music Center would happen 4-5 years later), and this is therefore significant.

by Jason Steidman


Full article below - Essential reading for any Light Show historian !!