This fall the Leslie Lohman Gay & Lesbian Art Foundation completed its transition from Gallery to Museum, and with that opened its season with the inaugural “Lesbians Seeing Lesbians” show of photography.
Under the guidance of scholar/curator and board President, Jonathan D.Katz, the museum’s first show is one part history lesson, but more parts buoyant radical inspiration. Katz, ever the mentor, co-curated the show with young scholars Ilana Eloit (who is finishing an Art History degree at the Sorbonne in Paris) and Julia Haas (who archived and curated Cathy Cade’s works).
“Lesbians Seeing Lesbians” looks at the beginning of the Lesbian/Feminist movement through the lens of ground-breaking photographers JEB (Joan E. Biren), Cathy Cade, and Tee A. Corinne. Before the camera/phone became our ubiquitous appendage these artists captured our movement—when few even owned a camera—in its nascency, innocent and flamboyant, radical and tender. On first blush images of lesbian Wiccan fire dances, marches on Washington, and first kisses make you think you’re looking back in time, only on closer inspection it is as if these photos were shot yesterday. There is an immediacy and thrilling spontaneity in these shots, as well as well crafted and skilled technique at a time when mastery of perfect light, film exposure and chemistry were a necessity. No Photoshop? Say what?
The show jumps from the 70’s to the late aughts in a quick tour of the influence of these early photo masters on younger generations seen in works by contemporary photographers, Cass Bird, Angela Jimenez, Zanele Muholi, and of course Catherine Opie.
Co-Curator Ilana Eliot, among other tasks, contributed the collection of ephemera peppered throughout the exhibition space, courtesy of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, a treasure trove of lesbian lives through memorabilia and historic documentation. I make it sound much more somber that it really is, this stuff is absolutely delightful.
“Lesbians Seeing Lesbians” is up through Oct 22nd, at the Leslie Lohman Museum, 26 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10013 (Between Grand & Canal). Don’t miss this show.
If you can’t make it, co-curator Ilana Eliot, was kind enough to give Patricia and I a tour of the show last week: