James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Verasphere Archive

Love Parade, Little Girl, 2008
As Halloween approaches, we all start to think about what to wear and who to be. Might there be something around the house that I can re-purpose into a costume? If you need inspiration, take a look at the Verasphere Archive (GLC 59).

Cross the technicolor world of Willy Wonka with the Project Runway unconventional challenge, and you'll have some idea of the color and innovation that inform the Verasphere costumes and personae. Vibrant. Elaborate. Resourceful. Artistic.

David Faulk, Flower Power Hoop Skirt, 2008
The Verasphere Archive contains newspaper clippings, oral histories, video-recordings, and, most importantly, photographs that document the costumes, appearances, and makeup of San Francisco's own Mrs. Vera, a drag persona, and her circle of friends.

Verasphere, 2008
Mrs. Vera is the collaboration of gay artist and costume designer David Faulk and his partner, photographer Michael Johnstone. The characters Mrs. Vera (Faulk), Mr. Tina (Johnstone), and their friends are collectively known as the "Verasphere." Beginning in the early 1990s, Johnstone documented their appearances at San Francisco street fairs, clubs, and other events. This was the start of the Mrs. Vera Daybook photograph series.

Folsom 2008, City Hall
The Daybook series began as a light-hearted documentation, but with the losses due to AIDS, and the presence of HIV, it has become a vibrant response to the depradations of the disease on both the physical and emotional landscapes. With Johnstone's diagnosis of bilateral cytomegalovirus, the work began to change, taking on a more serious subtext.

Green Dandy Top Hat, 2008
The archive has three photo albums. One of them contains pictures of costume pieces, with notes on what materials were used in their fabrication and when and where they were worn. The Green Dandy Top Hat is made from crepe paper, wire, tape, an inflatable flotation device, fishnets, hairclips, featherboa, fake bird, plastic jewels and a velvet top hat. It's just one example of the brilliant use of color, pattern, and texture. Johnstone notes that the colors in the photographs are un-retouched.

The Verasphere Archive (GLC 59) is available through the San Francisco History Center, 6th floor, Main Library. The photographs are available during the hours for the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Glamarama opening, November 2007

If you can't make it to the library, be sure to check out the Verasphere website for the latest information and photographs on Mrs. Vera and her entourage.

Villa Parkmerced, 2006