Barbara Hammer (American, b. 1939) is renowned for creating the earliest and most extensive body of avant-garde films on lesbian life and sexuality. In the late 1960s she was drawn to experimental film while studying film at San Francisco State University. During that time she came out as a lesbian, an act that helped radicalize her approach to directing. Galvanized by the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, she soon became a pioneer of queer cinema. Hammer has since directed more than eighty films, using avant-garde strategies to explore lesbian and gay sexuality, identity, and history, along with other heretofore unrepresented voices. In the 1970s her films dealt with the representation of taboo subjects through performance, and in the 1980s she began using an optical printer to make films that explore perception. In the 1990s she began making documentaries about hidden aspects of queer history. Hammer says, “It is a political act to work and speak as a lesbian artist in the dominant art world and to speak as an avant-garde artist to a lesbian and gay audience. My presence and voice address both issues of homophobia [and] the need for an emerging community to explore a new imagination.”

Organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film. Special thanks to Canyon Cinema.

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