Stanley Mouse

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Stanley Mouse
American graphic artist, author, and painter
(Fresno, California, 1940 - )

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One of the leading creators of psychedelic posters advertising San Francisco rock concerts during the late 1960s, Stanley Mouse is also known for the album covers he created for The Grateful Dead and other bands, often working with his collaborator Alton Kelley (1940-2008). Born in Fresno in 1940 as Stanley George Miller, his father was formerly an animator with the Disney Studios. The family returned to his parents’ former home of Detroit in 1942. He exhibited a talent for drawing as a child, often drawing the Disney character Mickey Mouse, and by the seventh grade adopted the nickname “Mouse.” Expelled from his high school in the tenth grade, Mouse enrolled in the Society of Arts and Crafts, an art school affiliated with the Detroit Institute of Arts. As a teenager he became fascinated by the hot rod and custom car world and painted designs on cars. After learning to use an airbrush, he also began painting T-shirts. In 1958 he persuaded his parents to let him have a booth at the Michigan State Fair, where he painted T-shirts on demand. Mouse went on to sell his work at car shows and races. His airbrushing business was so successful that his parents quit their jobs to work for him, with his father acting as his road manager and his mother managing a mail-order business. By 1965 he tired of the T-shirt business and went to San Francisco, where he met Kelley. Drafted for military service, Mouse returned to Detroit but was rejected by the military, and returned to San Francisco in early 1966. He became reacquainted with Kelley, a skilled mechanic who repaired Mouse’s Porsche speedster. The rock concert world had flowered by then, with concerts being promoted by Bill Graham (1931-1991) at the Fillmore and Chet Helms (1942-2005), operating as “The Family Dog” at the Avalon Ballroom. Wes Wilson (b. 1937) was designing posters for both promoters. The task of designing a new poster every week for both promoters became too much for Wilson, and he quit working for Helms in June. Kelley convinced Helms to commission Mouse to design the next poster, which he did (“Red Bull,” FD-13). Kelley and Mouse collaborated on the next poster for Helms, the famous “Zig-Zag Man” (FD-14), which appropriated the Zig-Zag cigarette rolling papers logo of a bearded man smoking a cigarette. It advertised a Family Dog concert featuring Big Brother and the Holding Company and its new singer Janis Joplin (1943-1970). Mouse and Kelley worked together as Mouse Studios for 15 years and collaborated sporadically thereafter. Initially Kelley was the idea man, skilled at design and collage, with Mouse working as the draftsman. Later the two worked together at a drafting table, with left-handed Kelley on one side and right-handed Mouse on the other. Their posters were inspired by a variety of images, from photographs of American Indians and Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs to an image from “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,” which inspired their 1966 “Skull and Roses” Grateful Dead poster (FD-26). Mouse and Kelley worked for other concert and event promoters as well and in early 1967 were hired to create the cover for The Grateful Dead’s first album. Later that year their work was featured in the “Joint Show” exhibition at San Francisco’s Moore Gallery, along with works by Rick Griffin (1944-1991), Victor Moscoso (b. 1936) and Wes Wilson (b. 1937); each artist designed a poster for the show. The following year the guitarist Eric Clapton (b. 1945) invited Mouse to come to London to decorate Clapton’s Rolls-Royce automobile. Mouse arrived in London only to find that Clapton had severely damaged his car in an accident. Mouse spent a year in London, found work, and met the Beatles. After returning to America, he stopped in Detroit where the Institute of Arts had mounted an exhibition of his work. Back in San Francisco, Mouse designed an album cover for The Grateful Dead and collaborated with Kelley on the Haight Street head shop Pacific Ocean Trading Company (“POT Co.”) and Monster Company, which made silk-screen T-shirts. They also collaborated in designing album covers for The Grateful Dead and other bands, winning a Grammy in 1979 for their album cover for the Steve Miller Band. In 1983 Mouse moved to Santa Fe for two years with his wife and daughter, where he pursued figurative paintings, but also did graphic designs for merchandise for the band Journey. After a time near Tahoe City, Mouse returned to the Bay Area, living first in Sonoma for twenty years and then Sebastopol. His last collaboration with Kelley was the program cover for the induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008. Mouse continues to create graphic art and paint landscapes and figure paintings. (TNB 1/2016) Selected bibliography: Grushkin, Paul. The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987. Mouse, Stanley. California Dreams: The Art of Stanley Mouse. With text by Blair Jackson. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2015. (Pulled from De Young Museum, HER 11/2/17)

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