Caffyn Kelley
editor and publisher of Gallerie: Women's Art
publisher of Gallerie Monographs

© Caffyn Kelley

Here are some of the thoughts I have had about lesbian visibility in Gallerie. My identity as a lesbian was at the heart of the work I did with Gallerie. I wasn't "born" a lesbian but "became" one at thirty. It felt like coming home. I felt happy and settled with my partner. I also felt embraced by a community of women. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of community, with the energy and pleasure of a shared social project. The project, as I understood it, was not only to end discrimination against lesbians, but to create alternative social models full of love, embracing variety and eschewing power. Because I was already a writer and an artist with experience in printing and publishing, I felt I could contribute to the "women's community" - as I then understood it - by publishing a magazine of women's art and writing.

Lesbians rested more quietly, in the 1980's, inside "feminism" and there was a sense that we shared with all enlightened women the project of creating a new culture. Women were talking, teaching, writing and making art with completely different aims and values from those found in the dominant culture. I imagined that dominant culture as a closed circle, where a few privileged men with significance constituted the meaning of things between themselves. Instead of trying to be accepted in mainstream venues, to aim at becoming part of that circle, I thought women had a chance to make an alternate culture - not about closing in around privilege, but instead rejoicing in our differences. I wrote: "We increase our capacity for vision and invention by retaining and expressing our differences, much more than by uncovering our similarities. We don't need one voice to speak with, but many, more, and louder voices. Then we might set up a racket that reverberates through the apparatus of power, and makes some difference there." My vision in Gallerie magazine was to create a sense of open space, where each contributor could discuss her art and her life, the way art and life wrap around each other - in her own words. The magazine gave space to well-known artists equally with unknown artists. Issues of race, class, age and sexual orientation were addressed by quiet inclusion and an open form that did not require us to be the same.

The first issues of the magazine were the most radical in the way that the lesbian artists were included as a very ordinary, yet vital part of the presentation of women artists and women's culture. In later issues I feel I went off track - I began to feel less excited, more uncertain and embattled - this is reflected in the magazine. I also began to get fewer submissions from lesbians who were willing to be "out" in print - partly because the magazine was widely read outside the feminist community - partly just my own "burn-out", lack of contacts and resources. Later issues did include many lesbian artists, but those who were "out" were often those whose focus was on the representation of lesbians or lesbian issues. As for what has formed me, its a very interesting question. More than anything else, I would say its the places I lived, the different environments I have lived in. These days my project is writing and making art about "being gay" - I am having fun.

Bibliography

Kelley, Caffyn. "Broken Silence, Visible Wounds: Canadian Artists Explore Social Space With Contradictions Intact," High Performance, Los Angeles, #69/70, 1995.

Kelley, Caffyn. "Creating Memory, Contesting History," Matriart, Toronto, Vol. 5 #3, 1995.

Kelley, Caffyn. Like a Rock, artist's book, published with the assistance of the North Vancouver Arts Council and the Canada Council, 1994.

Kelley, Caffyn. "Queer / Nature: Be like Water," Undercurrents: A Journal of Critical Environmental Studies, June 1994.

Kelley, Caffyn. "Feminism and Art in Vancouver: Time for Change," Modernism and Beyond: Women Artists of the Pacific Northwest, edited by Laura Brunsman and Ruth Askey, New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1993.

Kelley, Caffyn. "Sexual Subject/Sexual Object," Resources for Feminist Research, Volume 19, No. 3/4, 1992.

Kelley, Caffyn, editor. Forbidden Subjects: Self-Portraits by Lesbians. North Vancouver, B.C.: Gallerie, 1992.

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All text Caffyn Kelley.