“San Francisco just gave me an incredible sense of myself,” artist Catherine Opie said in 2018, when discussing her artistic and personal development. “…I really feel like that whole city allowed a sense of freedom and discovery for me.”
The city’s queer community, in turn, shaped San Francisco’s identity: a place for progressive idealism, sexual freedom, and a hotbed for activism that stretches far beyond its borders. Starting with Opie’s interviews about her groundbreaking queer portraiture, this short playlist features local artists reflecting on their responsive art and expands to include global makers who address queer identity in their work.
In these two videos, Opie describes how she captured the invented “personas” of the city’s queer community during the AIDS crisis in the early 1990s, and her series of powerful, vibrant portraits. The artist reflects on finding a sense of place in San Francisco and creating a body of work that reflected the city’s queer community.
Artist Hal Fischer talks about documenting his community in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood in the 1970s, and describes the genesis and impact of his landmark series Gay Semiotics.
AA Bronson, one of the founding members of General Idea, an artist collective that also included artists Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz, discusses how the group pushed art critics to discuss queerness and sexuality, opening up broader avenues for cultural shifts and conversation.
This episode of SFMOMA’s podcast Raw Material features artist Leilah Babirye, who fled her native Uganda after facing persecution and refusing to live an “inauthentic” life. She settled in a creative community in Fire Island, New York. Hear from the artist about how her life experience influences her bold body of work.