This article was published on June 4th, 2020
An exciting new exhibition encompasses textiles, costumes, photography, ephemera, and other imagery to deliver an intimate, panoramic perspective of the artist Gilbert Baker (1951-2017), designer of the iconic rainbow flag.
Titled Performance, Protest and Politics: The Art of Gilbert Baker, the recently revealed exhibition has been unveiled by the GLBT Historical Society Museum.
Now recognized as one of the prevailing symbols for LGBTQ rights, the initial hand-sewn rainbow flag debuted at the 1978 San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade and has grown in prominence to represent the international community. The overwhelming success and impact of the design, however, has overshadowed the rest of Gilbert Baker’s phenomenal creative output.
Performance, Protest and Politics is a deep exploration into how Baker lived several lives simultaneously juggling his work as an artist and activist, protester, performer, and provocateur – his works emphasized the power of art to bring social and political issues to the forefront. Across four decades, Baker has incorporated the full range of his artistic powers, devoting them to justice through the employment of multimedia via various approaches that include sewing, painting, design, and performance – all meant to advocate for positive social change.
By venturing beyond Baker’s renown rainbow flag design to other dimensions of his curriculum vitae, the exhibit puts into perspective the context behind its design as well as his singular life as an artist and activist.
About the Curators
Joanna Black: As the archivist at the William E. Colby memorial Library at the Sierra Club’s National Headquarters in Oakland, California, Joanna Black was the director of Archives and Special Collections at the GLBT Historical Society from 2016 to 2018. She holds a B.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a master’s in library and information science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Jeremy Prince: As the Collections Specialist at the San Diego History Center in San Diego, California, Jeremy Prince started volunteering at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in 2011. He served as the Society Director of Exhibitions and Museum Operations from 2014 to 2019. Prince holds an M.A. in modern European history and museum studies from San Francisco State University.
About the GLBT Historical Society Museum
Since launching in January 2011, the GLBT Historical Society Museum has been recognized as the first stand-alone museum of its kind in the United States. The main gallery of the museum features Queer Past Becomes Present, a long-term exhibition covering San Francisco LGBTQ history. The Front Gallery and Community Gallery hosts a rotating schedule of exhibitions throughout the year, with the institution holding sponsor forums, author discussion panels, and other programs monthly.
The museum serves as a public history center to collect, preserve, exhibit, and make accessible public materials that support and promote the general public on LGBTQ history, culture, and the arts – all in the name of diversity and inclusion. The GLBT Historical Society was founded in 1985 and is home to one of the world’s largest collections of LGBTQ historical materials.
Performance, Protest and Politics: The Art of Gilbert Baker is open online now.