23 November 2014

Artist's Talk in Washington DC: 11/28/14

If you're in the D.C. area over the Thanksgiving holiday, please join me for an artist's talk at Charles Krause Reporting Fine Art on Friday evening, November 28, 2014, 5:30 to 7:00 pm. I'll be talking about my 26 "Secret Codewords of the NSA," which are part of a group show there called "Lines Drawn."

07 November 2014

Gay Liberation Front (1969-1970)

ACTIVATE (Gay Liberation Front)
White line woodcut and toner transfer
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) lasted only a few months but it was a major turning point in the approach to American gay rights and, although the GLF was short lived, it spawned many other groups. The GLF grew directly out of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 and harnessed that energy as well as taking on some of the tactics of the civil rights and peace movements. They attempted to address a broad range of social and political issues: racism, war, and capitalism and as well as attacking traditional gender roles, challenging the notion of the nuclear family, and advocating sexual liberation. As happened with Occupy Wall Street in this decade, the GLF fell apart when members were unable to agree on operating procedure.

This print was created using the same matrix used for Accommodate (DOB) and Masquerade (Mattachine).

02 November 2014

Mattachine Society (1950-1969)

MASQUERADE (Mattachine Society)
White line woodcut and toner transfer
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3 (variable)

The first 'homophile' group in the United States was the Mattachine Society, founded in 1950 in Los Angeles by Marxist political activist Harry Hay and a small group of his friends. Given the anti-homosexual and anti-communist climate in the U.S. in the 1950s, anonymity was integral to the group during its formative years. (You can see the FBI's files on Mattachine here.) The name, Mattachine, came from a French masque group called the "Société Mattachine." As Hay related to Jonathan Katz in the book Gay American History,
These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression—with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change.
The Society's stated goals were to bring together homosexuals isolated from their own kind; to educate society toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling other minorities; and to assist victimized gays. Like its sister group, Daughters of Bilitis, Mattachine Society chapters were loosely affiliated under a national umbrella, but functionally autonomous, and chapters cropped up across the country. The Society struggled, as the LGBTQ community still does, with the sometimes conflicting goals of celebrating gay sexuality vs. seeking acceptance and respectability. The Society lasted in one form or another into the 1990s, but in the late 1960s they began to be seen as too traditional and not willing enough to be confrontational.

Although contemporary LGBTQ people mark Stonewall as the beginning of gay liberation, the Mattachine Society, and to a lesser degree the Daughters of Bilitis, had already been engaged for two decades in a struggle against police raids, entrapment, censorship, criminalization of sexuality, and labeling by psychiatric organizations.

I used the same matrix for this print as I used for the previous Daughters of Bilitis print.

21 October 2014

Daughters of Bilitis (1955-1968)

ACCOMMODATE (Daughters of Bilitis)
White line woodcut
Image size: 12" x 18" (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
Paper size: 14.5" x 20.5" (37 x 52.4 cm)
Paper: Mawata
Edition: 3 (variable)

Daughters of Bilitis (also called DOB) was the first lesbian social and political organization in the United States. Founded in 1955 in San Francisco by lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon (who were also the first couple to get married in San Francisco once same sex marriage became legal), the DOB began as a social club meant to be an alternative to lesbian bars, which were subject to frequent police raids. This may be hard to imagine today, but in 1955 it was illegal to dance with someone of the same gender in a public place.  The original eight members wanted to dance, but they also often discussed the self-hatred many lesbians suffered as a result of internalizing the society's attitudes and their desire to bring social change by providing support and education to lesbians. Within a year, the group had started a newsletter, The Ladder, which was the first nationally distributed lesbian publication in the U.S., and by 1959 there were DOB chapters in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

The Daughters of Bilitis was an assimilationist organization, advocating for women to "adopt a mode of behavior and dress acceptable to society" and urging women not to engage in butch/femme behavior. This may have been appropriate in 1955, a time characterized by police harassment and witch hunts against homosexuals and communists, but by the 1960s there were many lesbians and gays who felt that conformity was not working as a tactic and they began agitating for political activism and visibility. By 1970 the DOB had fallen apart and in 1972 The Ladder folded for lack of funds.

The print I've made to honor the Daughters of Bilitis mimics a traditional quilt pattern called the 'fairy ring.' I lightly blushed three small triangles on the right to suggest a larger triangle that easily disappears and assimilates back into the overall pattern.

20 October 2014

Back to 'God Is Our Witness'

Last year I started a series called God Is Our Witness (working title), which I envision as a four-part series of prints dealing with some of the history of the gay liberation movement in the last half of the 20th century. After finishing the first group of prints back in November, 2013, I took a break from the series. This was partly because I turned my attention in a different direction, towards Secret Codewords of the NSA which I finished in June. But it was also because I unnerved myself a little with the first Chapter of 'God Is Our Witness' (I'm calling each section a chapter). Titled "The Curse," Chapter One is a group of prints about exile and isolation. Emotional isolation was an experience I lived in for many years, now thankfully in my past, and it's been a large part of life for many LGBTQ people until very recent generations. Digging into it was painful, yet it felt like a necessary part of telling the story.

So after this long pause, I'm moving into the second Chapter, called "Counterspells," which I expect will be a celebration of some of the groups and organizations that helped move GLBT rights forward in the U.S. from the middle of the 20th century to the present day. The Chapter Opener is a somber beginning to this celebration, however.

In World War II Nazi concentration camps, a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn on the uniforms of imprisoned gay men and other sexual offenders to identify them to the guards as well as to other prisoners. Sometime in the mid- to late-1970s, the gay community claimed the pink triangle as an international symbol of gay pride and it is still used today (although not as often as the rainbow flag). I used the faux pink fabric that I made a couple of weeks ago to make these triangles, which I sewed onto paper printed with stripes.

As I currently envision this chapter, it will consist of prints based on the shape of the triangle.

25 September 2014

Imitating Fabric

My house has been under construction for a number of weeks and, since I work in a home-based studio, my art making has been pretty severely disrupted. Today I waded back in a little bit and made some trompe l'oeil pink fabric with moku hanga and Nishinouchi washi.

The trick is to use lots of rice paste so the brush strokes show.

17 September 2014

Secret Codewords of the NSA: A Book on Blurb

As I often do when I finish a print series, I've made Secret Codewords of the NSA into a print-on-demand book available for purchase on Blurb.

Click here to see a full online preview of the book.

Click here to order the book ($27.95 plus shipping).

And click here to see all of the books I've published with Blurb.