Letter from San Francisco
by Jim Van Buskirk

This new column was proposed by Tee Corinne, whose innovative photography, sensitive writing and creative strategic organizing continue to inspire me. Tee, in turn, was inspired by Janet Flanner’s “Letter from Paris” which appeared under the nom de correspondence “Genêt” in the New Yorker from October 1925 to September 1939. Janet and her longtime lover Natalia Danesi Murray are profiled by Murray’s son William, himself a New Yorker writer, in a new book entitled Janet, my mother, and me: a memoir of growing up with Janet Flanner and Natalia Danesi Murray (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

I haven’t yet made it to “Georgia O’Keeffe: the poetry of things” at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor through May 14. Focusing on O’Keeffe’s studies of nature, the exhibit also includes a selection of photographs of the artist by Stieglitz as well as works by Group f.64 photographers, but I’m betting that the show won’t make reference to O’Keeffe’s relationship with Paul Strand’s wife Rebecca.

There’s something wittily subversive about Helen Cohen’s small sculpture, recently at Braunstein/Quay Gallery. Walking into the gallery, one comes upon an eclectic assortment of household appliances, containers, and other utilitarian articles. Momentarily disorienting, one accepts the invitation to peer into these familiar objects. There, inside each piece, the viewer discovers an entire miniature room, one in which the object would itself have been (and in some instances is) situated. For example, inside an ordinary 1978 toaster oven is an entire vintage wallpapered kitchen, complete with island counter, breakfast table, refrigerator, blender on the countertop, etc. A 1949 hat box houses a post-war millinery shop. The mixture of mystery and delight provokes a profound emotional response, often enhanced by the addition of subtle light and sound. This seemingly simple idea, exquisitely rendered in minute detail, appeals to my queer sensibilities, though as far as I know Helen does not identify as anything but straight.

I’m currently reading The fruit machine: twenty years of writings on queer cinema, a collection of reviews and articles by film critic, teacher and activist Thomas Waugh. Spanning from 1977 to 1997, many of these essays originally appeared in Jump cut, Body politic, and other publications, while others were previously unpublished. Gathered together, they make fascinating reading, providing fresh insight into this pioneering gay film critic’s idiosyncratic perspective on two decades of queer media.

“Strange Sisters: The Art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction 1949-1969,” based on the book by Jaye Zivet (New York: Viking Studio, 1999) was the title of a recent exhibit at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library. Examples of the graphic covers from the library’s collections were supplemented with brief sketches of some of the many pseudonymous authors and artists. A special program by the charming Ann Bannon, author of Beebo Brinker, Woman in the shadows, and Odd girl out, was well-received by the 150 people who attended the Eureka Valley-Harvey Milk Branch event. The event was also inspirational to Bannon who promised to return to the manuscript of her new novel, featuring ... Beebo Brinker.

Currently at the Hormel Center is “Sheets in the wind: a history of the poster in the LGBT community,” curated by Adrienne Fuzee. It explores the past 40 years of the Bay Area’s LGBT communities through broadsheets, flyers, and posters selected from the collections of the recently renamed Center for the History of Sexual Diversity/Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Historical Society of Northern California.

At SugarLift, the CHSD’s Second Annual Art Affair at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, performance artist Nao Bustamante offered an unsettlingly humorous piece, and then accepted the organization’s annual award. Glamorous GLBTers gawked at artworks by J. John Priola, Daphne Scholinski, David Cannon Dashiell, Chris Komater, Catherine Wagner, Tom Bianchi, Loren Cameron, Daniel Nicoletta and many others, which were later given away and/or auctioned off to raise funds for the pioneering 15-year-old organization dedicated to preserving Northern California’s queer history.

Jim Van Buskirk, Program Manager
James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center
San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
phone 415/557-4566
fax 415/437-4831
email JIMV@SFPL.LIB.CA.US

Note from the editors:

This “Letter from San Francisco” is a new feature of the newsletter. If you would like to contribute a regular or occasional letter on queer art events in your hometown, please let the editors know.