News Briefs: SF library unveils AIDS portraits exhibit

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Wednesday October 18, 2023
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Jeannie O'Connor's "AIDS Self-Portraits" exhibition features an unnamed person at the Center for AIDS Services in Oakland, left, and Brice Anderson at the Shanti Project in San Francisco. Photos: Courtesy SFPL
Jeannie O'Connor's "AIDS Self-Portraits" exhibition features an unnamed person at the Center for AIDS Services in Oakland, left, and Brice Anderson at the Shanti Project in San Francisco. Photos: Courtesy SFPL

The San Francisco Public Library presents "AIDS Self-Portraits: Positive Art," featuring photographs by Jeannie O'Connor taken at four centers for AIDS services in San Francisco, Oakland, and Richmond from 1989-95. The exhibition opens Saturday, October 28, in the San Francisco History Center and the Hormel LGBTQIA+ Center, both located at the Main Library, 100 Larkin Street (sixth and third floors, respectively).

A news release stated that the exhibition serves as an important reminder of the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the community and the city's trailblazing response to the crisis that continues to inform health policy today.

"The self-portraits in this exhibition represent the double bind of visibility and invisibility during the early AIDS crisis. These early 1990s portraits render themselves visible — as socially viable human beings — in order to receive the treatment they needed, from medical to emotional support," stated Christina Moretta, San Francisco History Center photography curator.

O'Connor is an artist who has created portraits of people living with AIDS since the late 1980s. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world, and her portraits have been featured in numerous publications and are part of the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA+ Center's archives, the release stated. The exhibition at the main library showcases a selection of O'Connor's most powerful and moving portraits, which were created while she was a guest artist for Sharon Siskin's Positive Art classes, a groundbreaking community-based public art collaboration in the Bay Area that was founded in 1988.

O'Connor set up a makeshift studio and brought in a view camera with Polaroid film. A long shutter release allowed each sitter to control the timing of the shutter, making them an active participant in the art creation, the release explained. The final prints were passed around and enjoyed by the subjects and their families, and they became joyful symbols of their survival and resilience as well as a portrait of a disease that does not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, gender, or age, the release noted.

"Little did I know, when I was invited to take portraits at Rest Stop, that I would land at ground zero in the AIDS crises in the Bay Area," O'Connor stated, referring to one of the AIDS centers in San Francisco. "For six years, I recorded the faces of young men and women whose newly found freedom of sexual expression was cut short by an unknown and deadly virus. Looking back at this body of work, I'm struck by how far we have come and how far we have yet to go to eradicate this disease. I'm glad my work honors these brave souls and serves as a reminder that HIV/AIDS is still very much with us."

O'Connor's portraits won praise from the Hormel center.

"Jeannie's portraits are a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit, and we are honored to share them with our community," stated Cristina Mitra, Hormel LGBTQIA+ Center program manager.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during regular library hours and will be on display through February 29.

An artist talk with O'Connor will be held Saturday, November 4, at 4 p.m., in the library's history center on the sixth floor.

A selection of portraits from the O'Connor collection can be viewed online through a National Endowment to the Humanities digitization grant "The San Francisco Bay Area's Response to the AIDS Epidemic: Digitizing, Reuniting, and Providing Universal Access to Historical AIDS Record."

Churches to sing outside LGBTQ synagogue

Members of Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco will join First Mennonite Church in singing with and for their Jewish neighbors at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the LGBTQ synagogue near the Castro, Friday, October 20, from 7 to 8 p.m.

The observation is being held in the wake of renewed violence in the Middle East that started after the Hamas terrorist organization attacked Israel October 7 and has now escalated to war between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Israel. Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed.

First Mennonite pastor Joanna Schenk noted, "We will sing for peace, praying for the safety of all who are suffering."

All ages and singing abilities are welcome. Songbooks and candles will be provided.

Congregation Sha'ar Zahav is located at 290 Dolores Street, at 16th Street.

SF swap needs Halloween costumes

The Portola branch of the San Francisco Public Library is having a Halloween costume swap Saturday, October 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 380 Beacon Street.

According to an announcement, people can donate clean, gently used costumes, take a costume, or donate a costume and take one. There is a need for donated costumes, officials noted. The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library is sponsoring the event.

For more information, click here.

100-plus drag artists sought for SF extravaganza

San Francisco drag laureate D'Arcy Drollinger and drag artists Juanita MORE! and Honey Mahogany are working with the City Joy Fund on what will be the biggest drag show ever — "San Francisco is a DRAG!" — and have issued a call for participants.

They are hoping to bring together over 100 vibrant drag performers, transgender luminaries, nonbinary trailblazers, and allies of all stripes for a spectacular citywide extravaganza.

The event will take place over two days, Saturday, December 2, and Sunday, December 3, from 1 to 6 p.m. at venues throughout the city.

Performers who wish to apply should indicate their preferred timeslots for both days. "You will perform with three performers per location," the announcement stated.

The honorarium for services will be $1,000 for both days.

To apply, click here.

County office to host LGBTQ summit in San Jose

The Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs will hold its fifth annual LGBTQ+ Summit Friday, October 27, starting at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn San Jose-Silicon Valley, 1350 North First Street in San Jose.

The summit, themed "Work is Work," brings together LGBTQ+ professionals, allies, and advocates to explore how the LGBTQ+ community can excel and make innovative contributions across various sectors, according to an email announcement.

The event is free, and breakfast and lunch will be provided. Advance registration is required and can be done here.

Drag Out The Vote unveils fundraiser

Drag Out The Vote, a national nonpartisan nonprofit organization that aims to promote participation in democracy, is raising funds for its drag ambassador program and for its 2024 national campaign with a matching donation program.

A news release stated that Public Wise, a voting rights organization, has created a matching program and, until the end of October, will match donations to Drag Out The Vote up to $5,000.

"Since our inception, Drag Out The Vote has recruited and trained more than 300 drag artists in 44 states, contacted over 750,000 voters, has generated over 1 billion media impressions, and have launched specific statewide engagements and campaigns in New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and Texas," the release stated.

In 2020, two San Francisco drag artists participated in the ambassador program, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. According to its website, the organization will begin looking for its 2024 election ambassadors this fall.

To make a donation through the matching fund, email [email protected]

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