Self-Portrait at 40
1987, Happy/L.A. Hyder

Artist Statement
Happy/L.A. Hyder

I feel all my work is informed by who I am as a lesbian. That no matter what it is, it's lesbian art. I was born in 1947. In 1971 I got my first good camera, learning as I went along. I photographed only in black & white for about 20 years, and was very serious although I really never was a continual artist. Now in my exclusively color work, I still seek texture and form and my palette is often monochromatic.

I photograph a lot of doorways and a lot of stairways. I like the feel of possibility and looking through things. I feel it's not always the content that makes it lesbian. Texture and form to me is very lesbian. My installations have much more direct lesbian content than my photographs, and they have more of a political bent. Installations involve transforming a concept and often mine are about being lesbian or being of Arabic heritage.

I want to be visible as a lesbian and as an artist, to be able to hold my identity wherever I am and still be included in non-lesbian-identified art exhibits and non-sexual art exhibits. I think most of the art we see that is identified as done by lesbians has a sexual context. I have no problem with art with a sexual content, but that's almost all that's shown unless we put our own exhibits together or we go to places that are alternative.

I've been thinking about censorship and I have a question. Do we tend sometimes in our lesbian content or in our desire to do lesbian content, to censor ourselves so we don't get censored?

Is lesbian art inherently political art? I don't think so. Although saying I'm a lesbian gives it a kind of a curve, it's a political act by an artist. I wonder when a curator who likes my work and wants to put it in an exhibition learns I'm a lesbian, is that going to color their decision? To identify as a lesbian is often to take a risk.

c-print, 10"x18", 1994
Happy/L.A. Hyder

Kate Millett
photograph, 1994
Happy/ L.A. Hyder

Happy (L.A.) Hyder is a photographer and the director of LVA: Lesbians in the Visual Arts, 870 Market St. #618, San Francisco, CA 94102. A longer version of this essay was published in "What is a Lesbian Artist?" in Pentimenta: The Art Journal of LVA: Lesbians in the Visual Arts.

Books & Archives · Photographers · Critics & Commentators

Back to Essay

All text Happy/L.A. Hyder.