Looking for Lesbians–an exhibit featuring the works of ONE Archives Artist-in-Residence Sarah Joy Ford, opened on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at the ONE Gallery in West Hollywood at 626 North Robertson Boulevard. The exhibit, curated by Alexis Bard Johnson, will run for three months through the summer.
There will be a Looking for Lesbians panel discussion with Jenny Wrenn, Carolyn Weathers, Ann Bradley on Thursday, July 28, 2022, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. One Galler. The event is free. To register, visit:
Looking for Lesbians is a new body of work created for ONE Archives at the USC Libraries. Sarah-Joy Ford’s work responds 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?
“We wanted to highlight lesbian pulp novels. There is a lot of gay male pulp novels, which is amazing, but there is small section of lesbian pulp fiction, so that was my inspiration,” Ford told WEHO TIMES. “Two L.A.s novels, ‘Spring Fire’ by Marijane Meaker who went under the pseudonym Vin Pakcker, and a book called Odd Girl Out, by Ann Bannon, which is probably the most famous lesbian pulp novel written by a woman. Both of these novels were set in sorority houses and were about girls falling in love, but they had to have these tragic endings because of censorship; that was the only way to get the book published. I wanted to explore that and revisit the lesbian sorority and remaking it into a lesbian utopia and rethink these endings because there were no happy endings for lesbians back then.”
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 ([email protected]). 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.