Looking for Lesbians presents a new body of work created for ONE Archives at the USC Libraries by Artist-in-Residence Sarah-Joy Ford. Her works respond to ONE's lesbian pulp fiction collection and other archival materials related to lesbian literature in Los Angeles. The exhibition brings together works on paper, photographs, textiles, books, and archival materials—to showcase the significant collection of lesbian pulp fiction at ONE and to highlight the legacy and significance of this collection. Taken together, the artwork and archival materials ask: how do we connect with histories held by archives and individuals? How can these histories be navigated by one individual and how can we interact with them now?
At the heart of the exhibition is a series of artworks that examine the sorority as a site of same sex intimacies and lesbian desire as well as brutal regulation of acceptable femininities. The work draws from the earliest lesbian pulp novel written by a woman, Vin Packer’s 1952 novel Spring Fire, and Ann Bannon’s slightly later 1957 novel Odd Girl Out, which set their stories of sapphic love and loss in a sorority. These new works produced by Ford explore the fascination with women’s societies and single sex spaces in lesbian culture. They include a quilt, a tracksuit, and embroidered patches. Their iconography is inspired by a range of lesbian symbols–from Anne Lister’s funerary hatchment to the labrys of Monique Wittig’s Amazons. The work claims a deliberately femme aesthetic, taking pleasure in shades of pink, pastel hues, satins, sequins, and decadent surfaces.
The new works are a response to Ford’s time spent in the archive, marking specific encounters and tracings of lesbian legacies at ONE. Using hand-made paper created out of archival waste, Ford crafts a visual record of the lesbian pulp collection at ONE, cross-referencing Barbara Grier’s Lesbiana ratings. She also visualizes a network of LA lesbian literature, including Carolyn Weathers and Jenny Wrenn’s Clothespin Press, the Lesbian Writers Series at In A Different Light Bookshop, and Terry Wolverton’s Excavations project at the Women’s Building.
This exhibition is curated by Alexis Bard Johnson. The exhibition is supported by ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, the partnership placement scheme from the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Center (Arts and Humanities Research Center), and Manchester Metropolitan University. The gallery is open Thursday-Saturday 12pm-5pm, or by appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org). Masks required indoors.
About the Artist
Sarah-Joy Ford is an Artist and Post-Graduate Researcher at Manchester School of Art where she is a co-director of the Queer Research Network Manchester and member of Proximity Collective. Ford works with textiles to explore the complexities and pleasures of queer communities, histories, and archives. Her practice sits at the intersection of digital and traditional, using strategies of quilting, digital embroidery, digital print, appliqué, and hand embellishment. Working with decorative textiles situates the practice within histories of gendered marginalization and a lineage of artists reclaiming cloth as a powerful language for disrupting discrimination, erasure, and hetero-patriarchy. Her PhD research explores quilt making as an affective methodology for re-visioning lesbian archival material. The loving attention and protective qualities of the quilt offer a reparative site for investing in lesbian archives inherently bound to a history of injury and marginalization. Her current solo show is a site-specific heritage intervention titled Beloved: crafting intimacies with the ladies of Llangollen and is open at Plas Newydd Historic House and Gardens from 30th April – 30th October.
ONE Gallery, West Hollywood
626 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069