This collection documents the creative works of artist David Cannon Dashiell. This collection includes written,
conceptual, and design works produced from the middle 1970s through 1993 when the artist died. Personal items in the
collection are limited to a small cache of photographs and slides.
David Cannon Dashiell was born on July 4, 1952, in Tokyo, Japan. His parents were Samuel Dashiell and Dorothy Cannon; he
was the grandson of author Dashiell Hammett. Dashiell's father was a Cartographer for the United States government and
lived, primarily, in South East Asia from the American occupation after the Second World War until the height of the
Vietnam War. Dashiell thus spent his childhood abroad until he was returned to the United States in 1968 because his
father felt that East Asia was becoming dangerous for non-military Americans. He spent the next several years moving from
state to state before finishing his high school years in Florida.
Dashiell attended the California Institute of Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, California, where he worked with John Baldessari.
From CalArts he received a BFA in 1974 and an MFA in 1976. After graduation, Dashiell moved to Los Angeles and worked
at an architecture firm. While establishing himself in the field of graphic and industrial design, Dashiell sought to further
explore his sexuality and felt San Francisco would be the ideal place in which to do that. He moved to the City in the early
He resumed working as an artist in the context of the spreading AIDS epidemic and, in particular, his sense that he might
be infected with the virus (at a point in time when HIV testing was not yet available). Throughout the 1980s and early
1990s, Dashiell was a productive and respected conceptual artist; he focused on themes related to the AIDS epidemic,
including sexuality, disease, medicine, and apocalyptic symbolism. His works were exhibited at many galleries across the
country including Beyond Baroque in Venice, California, and the New Langton Arts in San Francisco. In 1993, he received the
prestigious Adaline Kent Award from the San Francisco Art Institute. He died from AIDS on 30 June 1993, just a few days
prior to his 41st birthday. His works are included in many private collections as well as the San Francisco MOMA, University
Art Museum Berkeley, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Copyright to unpublished materials has been transferred to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society.