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John Turner
"Unheard Conversations"

Showing August 26 - September 15, 2023

Artist and collector John Turner exhibits in this show photographs taken from his book “Unheard Conversations, A Wonderful Collection of Carved Coconut Heads".  John, a former curator at the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum and a retired arts producer from KGO TV News, saw his first carved coconut head at the Honolulu International Marketplace in 1959.  Some 40 years later he purchased one in Brazil, a detailed, personality infused carving of an indigenous Indian.  Casting a wider net, John found that coconut carvings, documented as early as 1890, could be found in practically any country that grew coconut trees, and had a tourist trade.  Generally under-appreciated and hiding in plain sight, carved coconut heads fall somewhere between folk art, adorned kitsch and a segment of contemporary art that looks to primitive art for inspiration.


Here are a few coconut “fun facts”.  Falling coconuts kill 150 people a year, more than ten times the number of people killed by sharks.  If you have a dream about opening a coconut, it is a good sign because it means that very soon you will receive a gift from someone.  The coconut is not actually a nut, but a fleshy fruit, called a drupe, that contains a single hard seed.


John also creates his own art from his Berkeley studio space at Firehouse Gilman Art Collective.

You can learn more about John and his art by watching this 11-minute video about his process.

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