After dropping out of college, I returned to my hometown of Eureka and went to sea. Working as a commercial fisherman was adventurous, romantic, lucrative... all those things they say it is. It was also seasonal and whenever bad weather made fishing impossible it was possible to make art.
In the spring of 1970, along with Keith Kays and John Intersimone (a couple of other waterfront artistic types), I set up a cooperative studio in an old warehouse on Second Street in Eureka. Another founder was Dave McDougall, then an art student at Humboldt State University. He brought in academia.
Keith Kays John IntersimoneDave McDougall
We named it W.A.C.O. or Western Artists Cooperative Outlet... but, in fact, the name came from a scene in the 1969 John Schlesinger movie "Midnight Cowboy".
I lived there for three years and it was in this place that I really felt like I was attending art school. Working at sea as a commercial fisherman and working on these (6'x9') large drawings on a high quality watercolor paper that was available locally. Very little documentation of the WACO days exists. Mostly that was the result of a defiant anti-art establishment attitude which I now wish hadn't been quite so anti-documentation. Anyone reading this with any old photos of those days... email link is below. Here are a few examples of some of the drawings and a couple of early paintings along with some images of the exterior of WACO taken from an old 8mm film by Scott McDougall:

drawing 1 drawing 2 drawing 3 drawing 4 drawing 5 first painting second painting
WACO exterior, 1970


Here are a few more photos I've found showing life at WACO, on Two Street, Eureka, early 1970s:

WACO kitchen
The Kitchen.
WACO party
One of many parties. The red circle is on Morris Graves, local artist, frequent visitor.
WACO opening
One of the art openings.
The WACO front door
The WACO front door at 2nd and C Streets. View is along C Street, north towards the bay.
WACO group
The WACO group circa 1971.

Click here for a 2012 local newspaper article about WACO.


Christmas Eve, 1972

I was working on the Lady-Fame, a 48-foot commercial fishing vessel out of Humboldt Bay owned and skippered by Dave Rankin. Working with me on the backdeck was Steve Dockter, and on this very cold morning, Steve decided to bring along his younger brother, Gary, to take some pictures of the two of us running through the gear (pulling crab pots). It was to be my last day of fishing since I was scheduled to leave on a tour of South America right after Christmas, and Gary had never been to sea before...




In 1976, I was living in Del Norte County, in the far Northwestern corner of California. I'd been up there working fighting fires for the US Forest Service. Because of the strange local politics and at the request of some friends, I decided to run for County Supervisor in the First District.
Originally conceived as a politically motivated work of Performance Art, I went door-to-door to get on the ballot by petition. But after campaigning for six months and talking to so many residents, this "art project" became quite real as I realized that I was in fact the best qualified of the three candidates to represent these people.
I was very disappointed to lose, coming in second by some 150 votes.

card poster Austin Healey