Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Archives April 2010: A Well Developed Body of Work

Photographs of physique model Tony Sansone

In July 2009, the Hormel Center received a small box from an anonymous donor. It contained 20 black and white photographs and a small book titled Rhythm (Brooklyn, NY: 1935). The photos and book feature beautiful studies of Anthony (Tony) J. Sansone, a physique model and dancer.

A letter accompanying the donation explained that Leonard Laton once owned the book and photographs and gave them to the donor for safe-keeping in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the donor lost track of Laton. Now, decades later, he has sent the material to the Hormel Center in Laton's name. The donor describes Laton as a German Jewish gay man who “escaped the Nazi holocaust, fled to Canada and then established citizenship in the United States. He was a gentle, intelligent, cultured person, interested in photography, and nature particularly horticulture.”

Collections of male physique photographs are not uncommon in the papers of gay men. This collection contains 20 black and white photographs of Tony Sansone; most are nudes and 10 images are reprinted in Rhythm. One photo is inscribed: “For Leonhard Laton, with every friendly wish, Tony Sansone, 1955.”

A protégé of Charles Atlas, Sansone was a much sought-after model for photographers and artists during the late 1920s and 1930s. He worked extensively with Edwin Townsend, Achille Volpe and, in later years, worked some with Lon of New York. Townsend and Sansone collaborated on Modern Classics (1929) and Rhythm (1935). The introduction to Rhythm is by the sculptor Arthur Lee and includes photographs of Lee's bronze sculpture of Sansone.

Sansone became a gym owner in New York. For a complete biography, see John Massey's American Adonis: Tony Sansone, the first male physique icon (New York: Universe, 2004). Massey's book places Sansone within the context of the burgeoning physical culture of the early 20th century.

The Leonard Laton Collection of Anthony (Tony) J. Sansone Photographs (GLC 62) is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself

For Frida Kahlo afficionados Salomon Grimberg's Frida Kahlo: Song of Herself is a condensed version of the artist's life in both her own words and the words of her friend, Olga Campos. Salomon Grimberg, the author, is a Kahlo expert and an art historian. Throughout the book he intersperses fragments of Kahlo's ideology with lesser known drawings, paintings and photographs making this book a must see for those who think they are familiar with Kahlo's work. They include this one to the right called "The Mask" from 1945. The accompanying text includes insights, interviews, articles along with a chronological medical history of a woman who struggled with illness and chronic pain for the duration of her short life.

It is fascinating to contrast the views of Grimberg and Campos with those of Kahlo herself. On the issue of Frida's bisexuality Grimberg says, "Kahlo gradually took lovers of both genders in order to avoid feelings of emptiness." Campos rationalizes, "I do not think she was a true homosexual. If she had sex with other women, it would not have been for love or attraction but to satisfy her frustrated eroticism and vanity." But Kahlo states concisely,"Homosexuality is very correct, very good."

Kahlo, a politically active Communist, is also is quoted as saying, "I would fight in a war but imperialistic war is idiotic." Elaborating she states that"the class struggle, even armed, is very important." Yet her overall world view is considerably softer. She believes, "love is the basis of all life," confides that," I have enjoyed being contradictory." Then finally concedes, "I do not believe in anyone's honesty, not even mine."

For more on Frida check out this article from Woman's Art Journal: "Fashioning National Identity: Frida Kahlo in 'Gringolandia'."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lambda Literary Foundation and San Francisco Public Library Host Lammy Finalists

Our annual reading by finalists for the year's Lambda Literary Awards is one of our most inspiring and enjoyable events. On April 13 Lambda Literary Foundation's new E.D. Tony Valenzuela and LLF Board President (and prolific author) Katherine Forrest hosted 15 writers, who each packed into a 5-minute segment an unique and personal expression of the LGBT experience.

While each author was engaging, it's impossible in a short article to describe each presentation. Here are a couple of highlights: Tommi Avicolli-Mecca read from the anthology he edited called Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which describes the lives of lesbians, gay men, and trans folks in many US cities and rural communities, long before the fight for Same-Sex Marriage Rights overshadowed a movement less concerned with assimilation.

Cinderella with a twist? Ash, Malinda Lo's young adult novel brings romance and fantasy together and her strong female protagonist will excite many readers. Ash was also nominated for a Northern California Book Award. Minal Hajratwala's Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents brought forth a gender-blending side of Indian culture through transcendent language. And Patrick Latellier presented his essay on his personal diva, Queen Elizabeth the First (from the anthology My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspired Them.
The 22nd Lambda Literary Awards will be held on Thursday, May 27 at the School of Visual Arts Theatre in New York City.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

For Dust Thou Art: Poems by Timothy Liu

In honor of National Poetry Month, this week's book is "For Dust Thou Art: Poems by Timothy Liu." Liu is an associate professor of English at William Paterson University and has published five previous collections of poetry. His biography in Poetry Magazine further describes him as "an Asian, Mormon, gay man."

This collection is divided into three parts and it is an odd threesome. The first part is infused with a vibrant eroticism,"A taste/of oil and salt glistening on those toasted bodies."Part two zeroes in on the tragedy of the World Trade Center, "The liminal edge/of what has been--the suspension/of daily activity where what is/possible outweighs the probable." And part three rises up and looks down on both the transient nature of the human condition as well as the, sometimes inexplicable, will to go on, "nostalgia's shade a load of leaves/from a tree that no longer stands."

Liu has a facility for accessible poetry that leaves a haunting sadness. It chronicles the mundane, material aspects of the world while, at the same time, elevating them to something that reaches upward into the human spirit.