I valiantly tried to embody the anguished suffering artist, but chronic backsliding forced me to resign myself to a life of delight, abundance, and gusto. My checkered past includes stints as a buoyant union organizer, bona fide sex researcher, and deeply engaged college professor. I attended Oberlin College and Yale Graduate School, then for over a decade taught cultural studies with an emphasis on the histories of gender and sexuality. On an urgent quest to relocate pleasure, I took up printmaking and became utterly smitten with the medium as art and as craft. In 2000 I surrendered my academic life to assume care of Chrysalis Print Studio, where I now teach linocut and monotype classes. Along the way I founded City Art Cooperative Gallery, a thriving artspace on Valencia Street, and the Queer Ancestors Project, which is devoted to forging sturdy relationships between young LGBTQ people and their ancestors.
My prints frequently interweave the visual and the verbal. The Queer Words explores the multiple meanings of Queer slang – retooled epithets, secret codes, and camp – as a record of creative resistance. My “Pulps” are faux pulp fiction covers: art for novels I’ve invented that are set in 1950s San Francisco and celebrate the city’s history. In writing blurbs for these fabricated novels, I engaged deeply with the aesthetics of pulp fiction and noir. Gradually, the text outgrew the prints and became an actual novel, Blackmail, My Love, which is being published by Cleis Press in November 2014.
Blackmail, My Love is an illustrated noir mystery set in San Francisco in the Dark Ages of Queerdom: 1951. Josie O’Conner searches for her brother, a private dick who disappeared while investigating a blackmail ring targeting lesbians and gay men. Josie adopts Jimmy’s trousers and wingtips as well as his investigation, battling to clear his name, halt the blackmailers, and exact justice for the mounting number of Queer corpses. Along the way she rubs shoulders with a sultry chanteuse running a dyke tavern called Pandora’s Box; gets intimate with a red-headed madame operating a brothel from the Police Personnel Department; and conspires with the star of Finocchio’s, a dive so disreputable it’s off limits to servicemen – so every man in uniform pays a visit.