Comic strip from Broadsheet (October 1973).

Sharon Alston was a New Zealand painter, installation artist, cartoonist, illustrator, poster designer and comic artist. She was best known as a graphic contributor to the feminist magazine Broadsheet between 1973 until the early 1990s. All of her artwork, including her comics, dealt with female issues and/or women's empowerment. She also expressed her LGBT sentiments.

Early life
Sharon Kathleen Alston was born in 1948. As a teenager she realized she felt attracted to women. She always said that her parents were very supportive about her coming-out. In 1965 Alston even attended a lesbian conference in the Netherlands. Yet still it took until 1967 before she dared to express her sexual identity to others too. She was familiar with famous and uncompromising LGBT people like Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, but to her "they were all very foreign and all very dead". Modern-day homosexual/ lesbian people, especially in her direct vicinity, were less known to her. For a brief while, at the end of the 1960s, she lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, but in 1971 she moved back to Auckland, New Zealand. Alston found happiness in a relationship with Robbie Champtaloup.

In July 1972 Anne Else, Sandra Coney, Rosemary Ronald and Kitty Wishart co-founded the feminist monthly Broadsheet. Originally a low-budget publication, the magazine was resized and distributed to bookshops in 1974, which allowed it to reach wider audiences. It managed to remain in circulation until 1997. Sharon Alston was a regular collaborator to Broadsheet. She designed covers, illustrated articles and made posters and flyers. Some of her works were comic strips. Other cartoonists who published in Broadsheet over the decades have been Helen Courtney and U.S. artists like Nicole Hollander and Jay Kinney.

Although it took a while before Alston found the confidence to speak up for feminist and LGBT issues, she quite made up for it afterwards. In 1973 she addressed a women's liberation seminar and specifically stated that she was lesbian. She spoke up in favour of liberation and rights of lesbians both in her own country as well as worldwide. Her speech was printed under the title 'Gay Pride' in the 4-6 June issue of Broadsheet. In 1976 she toured with the Back Street Theatre Group to promote "pro choice" in the abortion issue. Alston joined all feminist protest marches and actively advocated them through self-designed posters. Once she protested against a store in Queen Street who used chained female figures to advertise women's clothing, by throwing a brick through the window.

Women's Gallery
Between 1981 and 1983 she was an artist in residence and coordinator in the Women's Gallery in Willis Street, Wellington. She made contributions to the exhibitions 'Self Image' (1981) and later 'Women & The Environment' (1988). Once she confronted all by her own a gang who had stolen takings from the Women's Gallery.

Final years and death
Despite her activism, Alston always felt it was a pity that she couldn't gain more fame and recognition for her artworks, particularly her paintings. In 1994 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her friends organized a fund-raising concert to finance an overseas trip for her, as a way to have one more exotic vacation. Unfortunately she became too ill and passed away in 1995, at age 46. One year after her death, between 12 and 23 February 1996, an exhibition of her work was held in Outreach, Ponsonby Road in Auckland under the title 'The Art of Sharon Alston'.

Series and books by Sharon Alston in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.