James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Guest Blogger: Q. L. E. Curator Jim Van Buskirk's Favorite Things

I was delighted to be invited back to guest curate "Queerest.Library.Ever #Hormel at20". Here are seven of my favorite items in the show:

outpost flyer, 1991
"Absolutely Queer" poster. This was a guerilla campaign from the summer of 1991, by two AIDS activists, who were lovers, and friends of mine. I urged them to donate a set of the posters to the Hormel Center with the provision that their identities not be revealed.  

A. Jay "Adventures of Harry Chess" detail
(A. Jay Papers)
Allen ("A. Jay") Shapiro drawings. I wasn't previously familiar with his cartoon strip "The Adventures of Harry Chess" and found it witty, provocative, and artistically excellent. Its inclusion exemplifies a goal of the exhibit: to recontextualize provocative material historically.
Gay Bob in his original packaging...
Yes, it is a very well appointed closet!
(LGBTQIA Realia Collection)
The Gay Bob doll entered the picture late in the game, when in the course of my research I realized the Hormel Center didn't own one. I lamented the lacunae to a lesbian friend who immediately ordered one and donated it. "No self-respecting Gay & Lesbian Center should be without one," she insisted. Exhibition designer Ann Carroll and I had fun one afternoon posing Bob in various positions in and around the Eureka Valley-Harvey Milk Memorial Branch.

Jewelle Gomez (center), undated
(Jewelle Gomez Papers)
"Lesbian Literary Love" was a labor of love partly because so many of the women included have become friends: Michelle Tea, Ann Bannon, Jewelle Gomez, Katherine Forrest, and Carol Seajay of Feminist Bookstore News. Developing this section was a wonderful collaboration with library school intern Mariah Sparks, whose dad processed the very first Hormel Center collection, that of poet Lynn Lonidier.

"Yellow Is For Hermaphrodites" scrapbook, 1995-2014
(David Cameron Strachan Intersex Collection)
David Cameron Strachan's contribution to intersex activism is important. In the process of proposing and planning a pioneering public program in 2001, David helped me develop the library's collections and taught me everything I know about intersex, starting with the fact that people with one of the myriad of conditions under the rubric of "intersex" were formerly referred to as hermaphrodites. We went on to collaborate on an article about intersex resources for the valuable anthology Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users: Essays onOutreach, Service, Collections and Access edited by Ellen Greenblatt.

#20 Movie Star, 2000
(Chloe Atkins Photographs Collection)
Chloe Atkins is a versatile photographer and a friend. Her various series includes portraits of drag kings and Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, as well as her well-known lesbian nightclub photos. For several years Chloe hosted the very successful series "Queer Photo Salon" at the LGBTQ Community Center and the SFPL. Her cross-dressing self portrait "Movie Star #35" hangs in my living room. Not only did the Hormel Center purchase a portfolio of her images, but Chloe generously donated her entire archives.

Gay and Lesbian Center Founders Committee, 1993
(San Francisco Public Library Records)
The Hormel Center Founders photograph was taken at a fabulous fundraising event at Jan Zivic's home in Sonoma. Bob Sass generously donated his copy of the framed photograph, even though ironically he is not included. Over the years Jan and I have become friends and I am delighted to have reconnected with Bob. The commitment of the Hormel Center's founders endures in many important and unimaginable ways.

The Queerest.Library.Ever. #Hormelat20 exhibition continues through August 7, 2016.

--Jim Van Buskirk

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