Quadriplegic artist Frank Moore passed away peacefully Monday morning at 67, ending a long career as performance artist, shaman, poet, essayist, painter, musician and Internet TV personality. Although cerebral palsy left him unable to walk or talk, Moore relished a life spent pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and free speech.
Moore is perhaps best known as an
NEA-funded artist targeted by Sen. Jesse Helms and the General
Accounting Office in the early '90s for art that some called
“obscene." Moore's five to 48-hour performances featured
audience participation, nudity and eroticism. They continued until
earlier this month at The Temescal Art Center in Oakland.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, to an Air Force
father, Moore spent his childhood all over the U.S., and in Germany
and Morocco. He moved to Berkeley in 1975 and here he stayed.
I first met Moore in the late '70s, as
a journalist, at the Mabuhay Gardens nightclub in San Francisco
during the heyday of punk rock. Moore was about to perform his
cabaret show, the Outrageous Beauty Revue (The Intimate Theater),
which consisted of Moore on stage in his wheelchair, surrounded by a
coterie of women gyrating erotically.
I was struck that Moore – who
communicated through an interpreter using a laser-pointer and a board
with letters, numbers, and commonly used words – was less awed by
the prospect of publicity than other performers I'd met. Moore didn't
fawn like the others.
Beauty Revue continued regularly at the Mab and by the '80s Moore had
become well known. In 1992 he was voted “Best Performance Artist”
by the San Francisco Bay Guardian.
I ran into Moore
again at a 2009 festival at People's Park, Berkeley, and he invited
me to appear, as a songwriter-guitarist, on his internet TV show,
“The Shaman’s Den.” He hosted the show on his web station,
LUVeR (Love Underground Visionary Revolution) and on BTV Channel 28.
While the show was fairly low-tech, it drew an interesting cross
section of local musicians to the studio in Moore's Berkeley living
By then, the years
had taken their toll on both of us, but Moore was his old, frank
self. When I played what I called my “attempt at teen pop music,”
Moore responded: “You're 40 years too late.” I had to laugh.
Moore was an
excellent painter who showed his work across the United States and
Canada. As a writer, he coined the term "eroplay" to
describe physical play between adults. He saw eroplay as a way for
people to connect on a deep human level beyond social and cultural
limitations, and as a way to melt isolation between people.
His books include
Cherotic Magic, Art of a Shaman, Chapped Lap and
SKIN PASSION, and Moore
was widely published in various periodicals.
In artist Pamela
Kay Walker's book, Moving Over the Edge, she called him one of
the artists who "greatly impacted me and many people through
their artistic expression and their lives." Performance artist
Annie Sprinkle also considers Moore one of her teachers.
In announcing Moore's passing, Linda
Mac, his translator, housemate and partner-in-art, said, “Frank was
very sick and told us he was at peace with dying ... Once admitted to
the hospital it was clear that the only ways to keep him alive were
the kinds of procedures that he definitely did not want, so we put
him on Comfort Care and Mikee and I and Corey, Alexi and Erika sat
around the bed loving Frank for several hours. Although he couldn't
talk, he made little sounds and responded to us the whole time. He
was very present with us. He died at 6:24 am with all of us and with
Moore's followers will hold a music-jam
celebration of his life on Saturday Nov. 2, at The Temescal Art
Center 511 48th Street, Oakland, starting at 8 pm. For details see: