Picturing Kinship: Portraits by Lenore Chinn
June – September 2017
Curated by Tirza True Latimer
“Picturing Kinship: Portraits of Our Community” offered a 35-year overview of portraits in painting and photography by San Francisco artist Lenore Chinn.
The subjects of the artist’s portraits are individuals who have contributed to the diversity of San Francisco’s cultural landscape in such fields as poetry, visual and performing arts, film, rock music, academia and the LGBTQ movement. The exhibition was curated by Tirza True Latimer, chair of the graduate program in visual and critical studies at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.
“Portraiture is at the core of my visual art practice whether it is painting or photography—both are employed in my creative process,” notes Chinn. “As a local artist, I focus on the depiction of a wide spectrum of people in all their diversity—women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. Collectively these images are visual narratives that constitute an art history largely hidden from the public’s perception of society and our particular cultural experience.
“My portraits reflect the many overlapping communities in which I move or which I have some connection to,” Chinn adds. “Many are colleagues or friends I have chronicled over three decades, so the viewer sees domestic partners, young men now departed due to HIV/AIDS and people from a wide variety of ethnic groups. Some have been involved in laying the groundwork for changing city policy pertaining to our civil rights, others are from my sociopolitical milieu. Together they have been pioneers in creating visibility and an infrastructure for our communities.”
About the Artist
Lenore Chinn is a second-generation Asian American painter, photographer, and activist whose work has been shown nationally for more than three decades. Her paintings are based in the Bay Area tradition of photorealism, with its practice of creating large-scale acrylics inspired by photographs of everyday life. At the same time, her iconography escapes photorealist convention by focusing on LGBTQ relationships, racial and ethnic diversity, and Chinese-American culture and kinship.
Chinn has long been active as a San Francisco community organizer who works to create structures of personal and institutional support that will both sustain critical artistic production and advance movements for social justice. She was an original member of Lesbians in the Visual Arts, is a co-founder of the Queer Cultural Center and has been active in the Asian American Women Artists Association since the group was founded. From 1988 to 1992, she served on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
About the Curator
Tirza True Latimer is the associate professor and chair of the graduate program in visual and critical studies at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She has curated numerous exhibitions, most recently “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories” for the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Latimer coauthored with Wanda Corn a companion book, also titled Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories (University of California Press, 2011).
Latimer’s published work reflects on modern and contemporary visual culture from queer feminist perspectives. She is coeditor with Whitney Chadwick of the anthology The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris Between the Wars (Rutgers University Press, 2003). She is the author of Women Together/Women Apart: Portraits of Lesbian Paris (Rutgers University Press, 2005). Latimer’s latest book, Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art (University of California Press, 2016), builds on archival research conducted for the Stein exhibition and book. For more information, visit Tirza True Latimer's CCA faculty page at www.cca.edu/academics/faculty/tlatimer.