The first of 200 portraits of Joan Quinn by her artist friends started out as a spontaneous idea. It was 1987 when Quinn was in a limousine with several others on their way to Andy Warhol’s funeral.
Her colleague Henry Hopkins started to draw. He passed it around and said, “Here you guys, draw a picture of Joan. Look what I did.”
The result was a larger-than-life yearbook.
Quinn fondly recalls sitting for a piece by Helmut Newton, or sitting for Antonio Lopez, whom she called “the most fantastic illustrator at the time,” or having David Hockney snap her in Polaroids.
Everyone’s style was different. Photographer George Hurrell took only one shot.
He sent it to her and said, “I told you I had it.”
During the sitting with Jean Michel Basquiat he looked at her arms and added bracelets and watches.
She was inspired by her mother’s love of art and by the work ethic of her father, racing legend, J.C. Agajanian. They instilled in her a devotion to art, friendship and collecting that would span over 40 years.
She says with fondness and a bit of sadness, “You’ll see in the show that people have passed on and it’s bittersweet — you’re so happy you were able to have something of them before they were gone.” Reflecting back on friends, she adds, “Weren’t we lucky?”
Joan and her husband, John, have been active members and supporters of a diverse artistic community for more than three decades.
Aside from the portraits, 95 percent of her overall collection is by Southern California artists.
Santa Ana College main gallery will display starting today more than 80 of 200 portraits of Quinn, including those by Robert Mapplethorpe, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston, Alexis Smith and Beatrice Wood.
“I think I would like the viewer in the gallery to learn to look at one subject in a different way,” she said.“ Through the eyes of the artist, each has a different perception of a subject — be it a person or a still life, due to the media used. There are many ways to look at things.”