Help Preserve the Legacy of David Cannon Dashiell

The Back Story

David Cannon Dashiell was an artist who died of AIDS in San Francisco in 1993. It happened a few days before the closing of his celebrated and historic exhibition Queer Mysteries for the prestigious Adeline Kent Award at the San Francisco Art Institute. Queer Mysteries is now in the collection of SFMOMA.

Soon after the exhibition’s closing, a group of his friends rallied to preserve David’s legacy. His estate had passed to his partner, Lewis, who teamed with the crew until he died intestate of AIDS one year later. David's work became the property of Lewis' brother, who had no interest in it. It became clear that David's friends needed to gain control of David's work and someone willing to own it to do so. It was then that Sono Osato stepped forward. His work was transferred to her by deed of gift in 1996, and what remained of the Estate of David Cannon Dashiell was rescued.

Detail of Queer Mysteries

For the past twenty-five years looking after David’s legacy has been a volunteer operation with no outside funding. Expenses have come out of Sono’s pockets, which aren't deep. In addition, a fellow member of the original group has provided free storage for Pantocrator's Circus and Lover's Discourse in his San Francisco studio since 1999, which is equally at risk due to the looming threat of gentrification and personal hardship. If these pieces are to be saved, they need to be moved into a commercial storage space, yet Sono does not have the money to do it.

Pantocrator’s Circus is a fantastic installation: the precursor to Queer Mysteries. It was exhibited at Art Space (the epicenter of cutting-edge art in San Francisco during the late 1980s to early 1990s) for the Painting Grant Award Exhibition. It includes paintings on fun house mirrors and cycloramas.

It's been an uphill battle to place it (approaching museums, colleagues and collectors) and moving it into climate-controlled storage will buy Sono more time. The goal is first to get a professional assessment of Pantocrator’s Circus' condition and, if it's tenable, store it safely for one year. If, after this grace period, there are still no takers, Sono will have to consider that the campaign to save Pantocrator's Circus is unsustainable.

Read more about the campaign to save Pantocrator's Circus in DCD's newsletter.

Announcement for Pantogrator's Circus with David's head inside a cyclorama.

Lover's Discourse Paintings in original installation.


For the Estate of David Cannon Dashiell to survive, there needs to be a financial cushion to maintain its infrastructure. For example, in the past year, Sono has financed over $4000 of the estate’s expenses with her savings. They include David’s new website, internet fees, travel to San Francisco to review inventory and shipping to the GLBT Historical Society. From the beginning of Sono's management, her out-of-pocket expenses, primarily storage, shipping, travel and online promotion, have totaled around $44,000. This overhead has become very difficult for Sono to maintain alone. This campaign will fund the final steps to save Pantocrator's Circus and shipping costs related to consolidating the estate's inventory for the coming year.


Donate what you can here on GoFundMe!
Purchase a work of David’s art presented under Available Work on his website. (contact Sono for prices.)
Share this fundraiser, David’s website and IG with anyone who cares.


*A fantastic feature on the Visual AIDS blog series by Gina Pratt Lily
*Works in the collections of SFMOMA, Whitney and Berkeley Art Museum.
*Inclusion in numerous prestigious exhibitions.
*An archive at the LGBT Historical Society in San Francisco.
*A strengthened online presence.
*Numerous college and post-graduate projects.
*A following across generations and internationally on Instagram.

Thanks so much for your time. Please learn more about David's work and life on his website, and please consider contributing to the Legacy of David Cannon Dashiell.

My very best,
The Director of the Estate of David Cannon Dashiell


See all


Sono Osato
Austin, TX

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.