by Mark Sawchuk
Inspired by the 30th anniversary of the founding of OUT/LOOK, artist E.G. Crichton (pictured above) has created a new exhibition, “OUT/LOOK & the Birth of the Queer,” open through January 2018 at the GLBT History Museum. Supported by a major grant from the Creative Work Fund, the show commemorates a groundbreaking national queer journal published in San Francisco from 1988 to 1992 that sparked vigorous debate during its five-year run. Crichton cofounded the publication and served as its art director.
As curator for the exhibition, Crichton invited artists and writers to respond to each of the 17 issues of the journal. “Fairly early on, I conceived of it as a way of creating intergenerational dialogue,” she explained. “OUT/LOOKwas committed to diversity, uniting different viewpoints, types of writing, and visual work. We brought together women and men in an era of extreme gender separatism in queer magazines and consciously strove for racial diversity. With this project, I wanted to find out what younger people would think of the magazine now and start a new set of conversations.”
Walking into the exhibition, visitors can ponder the history of OUT/LOOK in a mural reproducing covers of the magazine, as well as enormous chalk drawings based on cartoons by a frequent contributor, the late Kris Kovick. Crichton’s matchmaking also resulted in new artwork, essays, poetry, fiction and plays. The visual works are on display at the museum. Both visual and written works are featured on the associated website andin a new print issue of OUT/LOOK, available in the museum store.
The contributions are striking in their range of approaches and media. E. Patrick Johnson, for example, responded to the fourth issue of OUT/LOOKwith a powerful poem. Julio Salgado’s painting Drawing My Brown in a Sea of White, a response to issue 17, is a forceful look at the ways queer people of color are left out of mainstream queer narratives. Inspired by issue 5, Dorothy R. Santos’s “Swallowing My Boredom” uses interactive fiction to reimagine her teenage years as a Filipina-American.
Thirty years after it first appeared, OUT/LOOK continues making an impact. “I still run into people periodically who talk about how much they miss OUT/LOOK and how it changed their lives,” Crichton observed. “This project enables us to revisit the journal’s contributions through our holdings at the archives — and to honor those contributions and share them with a new generation of queer people.”
Mark Sawchuk is a member of the Communications Working Group of the GLBT Historical Society.
Reprinted from the November 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To subscribe to the newsletter, click here.