Press Release

Friday, December 14, 2018 - 10:47am
First Museum Exhibition of its Kind Exploring California's LGBTQ+ History and Culture to Open at Oakland Museum of California in April 2019
Queer California: Untold Stories Will Combine Art and History to Tell Under-Recognized Stories of LGBTQ+ Communities, Exhibition to run April 13–August 11, 2019 in OMCA’s Great Hall

(OAKLAND, CA) December 12, 2018— In April 2019, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will present a major exhibition combining art and history to tell the untold and under-recognized stories of California’s LGBTQ+ communities. Going beyond mainstream narratives, Queer California: Untold Stories will be the first museum exhibition of its kind to deepen and expand our understanding of this history through a multifaceted and interactive experience, providing the opportunity for museum visitors and members of the LGBTQ+ community to add their voices and stories to the conversation. 

“At this very tumultuous time in our country, many marginalized communities feel that threats to their basic rights are on the rise. This exhibition is needed now more than ever not only to share messages of hope and change, but also provide a deeper understanding of the complex history and important lesser-known stories of LGBTQ+ communities in California,” said Christina Linden, Exhibition Curator. “Queer California will address issues close to the hearts of many visitors who identify as queer, as well as other visitors who have felt like outsiders in mainstream culture.”

With transgender and LGBTQ+ rights increasingly in the news, the exhibition will be a timely opportunity to shine light on the history of California as a major site of LGBTQ+ community, culture, and politics. Queer California will explore a range of powerful stories through examples of social activism, contemporary artwork, historical materials, rarely-seen artifacts, archival documents, photographs, films and videos, costumes, and ephemera such as zines, stickers, and flyers. 

The exhibition aligns important milestones in LGBTQ+ culture with untold stories, focusing on the diversity of queer identities, civil rights, and resistance to oppression. A timeline will help ground visitors in the key moments, movements, and figures in California’s LGBTQ+ history, as well as the organizations, events, and people not often mentioned in that history. This exhibition will draw on histories of struggle for self-determination to help us imagine a more inclusive future.

“OMCA continues its commitment to presenting programming that addresses topics of real relevance to our local community as well as urgent national themes that resonate today,” said Director and CEO Lori Fogarty. “Queer California will offer a space for visitors to learn, reflect, and see themselves represented in the powerful, untold stories of California’s LGBTQ+ communities.”

Upon entering the exhibition, visitors will encounter artist Yetunde Olagbaju’s luminous and uplifting video Universal Exchange, as well as the entrance to an adjacent screening room featuring LGBTQ+ films. Two profound objects will set the stage for the exhibition in a section titled What Gets Left Out, including the original eight-color rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 situated nearby contemporary artist Amanda Curreri’s hand-dyed flag displaying two of the colors removed from the original design. Visitors will also encounter a recording by artist Eve Fowler featuring lesbian and trans Californians reading aloud from Gertrude Stein’s 1922 story about women in love that introduced the use of the word gay to mean homosexual. Black and white photographs, sculpture, drawings, and personal photo albums complete this section.

Several original works and commissioned pieces will be featured throughout the exhibition, including a new video featuring members of California native communities discussing stories of gender and identity in Native American culture. Artist Chris E. Vargas’ MOTHA (Museum of Trans Hirstory and Art) will serve as a mini-museum within the gallery, including materials representing significant events in this hirstory, such as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966, and people who have challenged gender norms in the San Francisco Bay Area such as Lou Sullivan, José Sarria, Sylvester, Louise Lawrence, and Miss Major.

A section titled Places to Gather will highlight LGBTQ+ clubs and groups formed in California—particularly in the 1950s and 60s—through photographs, letters, pamphlets, buttons, clothing, and other ephemera, as well as periodicals, magazines, and journals from LGBTQ+ press. Photographs and a map by Kaucyila Brooke will indicate sites where lesbian bars have come and gone throughout the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Photographs by Tammy Rae Carland will represent feminist and queer land projects in California, part of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s in which rural areas were occupied by those looking to flee urban areas. Many of these women-only enclaves and feminist retreats remain open today. Visitors will also be invited to sit on benches and car seats and listen to audio recordings in an interactive project by artist Kate Clark titled A Parkeology project, derived from the popular cruising site for San Diego’s LGBTQ+ community, Queen’s Circle.  

In one of the final sections In the Body, materials and artwork related to self will be presented, including photography by Laura Aguilar, drawings by Julio Salgado, and films by Barbara Hammer and William E. Jones. A central interactive and social space for visitors—the Gaymes Lounge—will include the vintage games D.Y.K.E. (Do You Know Enough) and It’s Only Natural from 1986, and Rainbow Gayme from 1992.

Contemporary perspectives of the LGBTQ+ community will be explored in a section titled Retelling the Stories, include videos by Tina Takemoto and Patrick Staff, as well as photographs by Torreya Cummings. Through prompts and questions, visitors will be invited to share their feedback and responses related to these works that grapple with complex issues of identity, narrative, performance, and representation.

Toward the end of the exhibition, Fluid/Future will include contemporary sculpture, paintings, and drawings, as well as quotes from different members of the contemporary LGBTQ+ community expressing ideas about a queer future. A three-dimensional timeline will outline untold stories of California’s LGBTQ+ history alongside well-known events, including graphic displays, artifacts, personal photographs, and important documents. Visitors will be provided with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of California’s history by celebrating significant milestones while also acknowledging its many tragic stories, including a section about the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Open-ended questions will prompt visitors to consider what gets left out of this history and to imagine the possibility of what could be in the future.

Artworks in the exhibition include artists and collaborators Absolute Empress III Shirley, Chloe Aftel, Laura Aguilar, Tina Valentin Aguirre, D-L Alvarez, Steven Arnold, Gilbert Baker, Lisa Ben, Andrea Bowers, Kaucyila Brooke, Ginger Brooks-Takahashi, Craig Calderwood, Pat Campano, MCXT (Monica Canilao + Xara Thustra), Tammy Rae Carland, Cassils, Jerome Caja, Wily Chavarria, Kate Clark, Torreya Cummings, Amanda Curreri, Cyclona, Rhys Ernst, Edie Fake, Eve Fowler, L. Frank, Clay Geerdes, Rick Gerharter, James Gobel, Nicki Green, James Gruber, Barbara Hammer, Mick Hicks, William E. Jones, Lenn Keller, Young Joon Kwak, Vero Majano, DJ Brown Amy (Amy Martinez), Jaguar Mary, Helen Nestor, Yetunde Olagbaju, Kari Orvik, Augie Robles, Grace Rosario Perkins, Marlon Riggs, Nica Ross, Julio Salgado, Patrick Staff, Chuck Stallard, Eric Stanley, A.L. Steiner, Sylvester, Tina Takemoto, Wu Tsang, Chris Vargas, Lex Vaughan, and Travis Y.

Queer California: Untold Stories will be on view in OMCA’s Great Hall April 13 through August 11, 2019. Historian and activist Susan Stryker and film historian Greg Youmans are consultants on the exhibition.

Queer California: Untold Stories is supported in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board.

UPCOMING EXHIBITIONS & PROJECTS

Black Power
New addition to the Gallery of California History
On view beginning February 8, 2019
Uncover the history of the Black Power movements in California with a compelling addition to the Gallery of California History. In response to the widely-popular 2016 exhibition, All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, this new installation will illustrate the creative ways black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government. Focusing on the example of the Black Panther Party, Black Power will bring to light the tensions between a culturally and socially progressive California and examples of economic racism and oppression in the state. This moment in California history will be represented through historic photographs, provocative objects, iconic posters, paintings and interactive prompts that encourage visitors to take action out in the world. Learn more about the Bay Area role in this national story, and the impacts this history continues to have today.

Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory
February 2–September 1, 2019
Discover Mildred Howard’s TAP: Investigation of Memory, a powerful multimedia installation that examines themes of identity, church culture, gentrification, dance, activism, and more. Born to activist parents, Howard’s family lineage and community inform much of her work. Part of OMCA’s Collection, this major artwork incorporates an antique shoe-shine stand from Oakland’s historic California Hotel, once a cultural center for the Black community--as the altar-like centerpiece, alongside white shoes and metal shoe taps arranged in a pattern covering the gallery floor. Symbolizing memories from her past and tap dance’s influence on her life, learn how Howard’s work has helped shape the narrative of activism in the Bay Area and continues to inspire artists today.

Pushing West: The Photography of A.J. Russell
May 4–September 1, 2019
Travel back in time through Andrew J. Russell's epic photography of the Transcontinental Railroad’s western expansion, completed 150 years ago in 1869. Though commissioned to document the railroad and its successful development, Russell’s photography reveals the tensions between the economic and technological advances and the Railroad’s significant impact on western lands and peoples. His powerful imagery highlights the majesty of the landscape with locomotive engines set amongst vast plains and colossal mountain ranges, captured through Russell’s remarkable technique using the collodion photographic process in remote locations.  

In this intimate exhibition, visitors will view rare vintage and digital prints, powerful landscape and 3D images, and original collodion negatives, as well as memorabilia, ephemera, and a video demonstrating the collodion process. Learn about Russell's legacy as one of the most important photographers of the 19th century in this inspiring presentation of one of the most historic and controversial moments in American history.

ON VIEW

The World of Charles and Ray Eames
Through February 17, 2019
Fueled by their belief in design as a way of life, the innovative husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames were two of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. Go beyond their most well-known designs in this intimate and inspiring exhibition portraying their legacy and lives in California. The Eameses—who founded The Eames Office—valued knowledge and discovery, embraced the joy of trial and error, and saw no separation between life and work. Through multi-media installations, films, rare prototypes, photography, furniture, toys, products, as well as personal letters, drawings, and artwork, discover the story of the Eameses from a fresh perspective. Explore the breadth of their work across many fields in this interactive exhibition that brings their ideas and playful spirit to life. 
 
The World of Charles and Ray Eames was curated and organized by Barbican Art Gallery, London. The Oakland Museum of California presentation is made possible by Herman Miller and the Oakland Museum Women's Board, in collaboration with the Barbican Art Gallery and Eames Office, with support from Terra Foundation. There is a $4 charge for this special exhibition in addition to regular Museum admission.

Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline
Through March 17, 2019
Drop back in time to see the natural environment of California in a new way. Discover the connections between art and science through fantastically colorful renderings by artist Ray Troll and the research of paleontologist Kirk Johnson, who made an incredible journey to map the ancient world with a fresh perspective. Together, the fossil-loving scientist and his artist friend paint a vivid picture of the land and creatures that once roamed the West Coast thousands of years ago. Learn how fossils teach us about how California’s landscape, plants, and animals have evolved over millions of years. With the addition of sculpture, maps, a giant sloth—or Paramylodon harlani— and other fossils and bones from the collections of OMCA and the California Academy of Sciences, and a fun hands-on activity, this exhibition will thrill fossil fans and curious culture-seekers alike. The exhibition is organized by the Anchorage Museum.

Take Root: Oakland Grows Food
Through November 2019

Unearth Oakland’s multi-layered world of food in Take Root: Oakland Grows Food, an exhibition exploring aspects of growing food in Oakland. Enjoy this hands-on exhibition with the entire family to understand what factors determine where, how, why, and what is grown throughout the city. Hear personal stories from farmers and growers within the community, see compelling illustrations and maps, and meet the diverse flavors of Oakland. Learn what motivations Oaklanders have for growing food—including access to healthy and delicious ingredients, environmental and social justice values, or simply the joy of tending a garden. Visitors will be invited to share personal stories, explore interactive activities, and gain a deeper understanding of Oakland’s agriculture.

ABOUT THE OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) tells the many stories that comprise California, creating the space and context for greater connection, trust, and understanding between people. Through its inclusive exhibitions, public programs, educational initiatives, and cultural events, OMCA brings Californians together and inspires greater understanding about what our state’s art, history, and natural surroundings teach us about ourselves and each other. With more than 1.9 million objects, OMCA brings together its multi-disciplinary collections of art, history, and natural science with the first-person accounts and often untold narratives of California, all within its 110,000 square feet of gallery space and seven-acre campus. OMCA is a leading cultural institution of the Bay Area and a resource for the research and understanding of California's dynamic cultural and environmental heritage for visitors from the region, the state, and around the world.

VISITOR INFORMATION
The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland. Museum admission is $16 general; $11 seniors and students with valid ID, $7 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. There is a $5 charge in addition to general admission pricing for special exhibitions. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the 1000 Oak Street main entrance to the Museum. museumca.org

* * *