"In his installations, performances, collages, and drawings, Christian Holstad mixes high and low culture to explore issues of gay identity. He is known for his labor-intensive collages (which often depict erotic couplings of men whose bodies are cut out of decorative patterns in magazines) and his use of craft techniques like quilting, knitting, and sewing. In his 2007 work Leather Beach, he transformed a former New York deli into an installation about pre-AIDS gay leather culture, offering up handmade faux fetish gear assembled from pompoms, chains, hair, vegetable matter, and glitter. Interested in communal experience and activity, in 2009 Holstad used embroidery and stitching atop white-towel canvases to create free-standing soft-sculpture urinals that incorporate detritus like cigarette butts, French fries, and condom wrappers."
"Reigning Queens: The Lost Photos of Roz Joseph presents evocative photographs of San Francisco’s epic drag and costume balls of the mid-1970s. The color images were created by noted photographer Roz Joseph, whose drag-queen series was rediscovered after she donated the work to the archives. The exhibition is curated by Joey Plaster, a doctoral candidate in American Studies at Yale University who currently serves on our board of directors.
“Roz Joseph documented a world of self-styled baronesses in diamond tiaras, elaborate ‘royal’ coronations and gender-bending performance,” says Joey. “Her photos show how gay men deployed theater and fantasy to make very real contributions to San Francisco’s gay community. We’re excited to bring these long-lost images back into public view almost four decades after they were made.”
Many of the drag queens Joseph photographed were associated with an organization called the Imperial Court, which annually elects a drag empress who raises funds for local charities. Founded in San Francisco in 1965 and now established in cities around the U.S. and in several other countries, the Imperial Court system is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year."
"In 1983 I became aware of an insidious ‘gay disease’ that began to permeate the queer male population causing fear and devastation within the community, as well as bigotry and intolerance directed toward them. Today, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) have become global issues and are firmly planted in everyone’s lives and consciousness. Almost no one is unaffected by it.
Political action targeted unconcerned administrations and mismanaged research. Developments in the medical field now offer hope to those who escaped the early ravage of the disease with the prospect of a full life; because of this, many young people have become careless or imprudent in their sexual activities. HIV continues to be transmitted and AIDS continues to affect many — especially the disenfranchised — in the U.S. and in the world.
My personal experience stems from being a buddy early on for people stricken with the illness and providing care to partners and friends, from joining ACT UP to demonstrate against the inefficacies of government and medical research, from marching in New York City’s Gay Pride raising consciousness within the community and from living in a community where HIV was a reality almost every day of one’s life.
I photographed what I saw. As time passed, the images became a part of history — not only my history, but the history of a group of people who have fought and struggled to acquire the medical care and social, legal and political rights that were taken for granted by others.
Individual experience became a universal chronicle of AIDS. Recognizing this work as important was only possible after the significance and magnitude of the images became clear and after years passed and emotions subsided. These images reflect my personal experience of being, looking, feeling and recording the AIDS crisis in my community and the larger gay."