Category: lesbian artists

AUGUST 15: Ivy Bottini (1926-)

Happy 91st birthday to Ivy Bottini!! The artist,
icon, and lesbian activist was born on this day in 1926.

Despite being most known for her activism, Ivy has maintained a successful art career throughout her life and continues to sell her work at ivybottini.com (x).

Ivy was born on August 15, 1926 in New York City. She had a
passion for the arts from a young age and went on to attend Pratt Institute
School of Art where she graduated with degrees in graphic design and
illustration. After graduating, she worked as art director and illustrator for
the newspaper Newsday. Although Ivy
was married and had two daughters with her husband Edward Bottini, she would
later admit to having known she was a lesbian ever since she was a little girl,
having said, “I fell in love with every gym teacher I ever had in my life.” Leading
up to her 1952 wedding to Edward, Ivy began experiencing severe anxiety;
after admitting to a psychiatrist that she was attracted to women, Ivy was told
to abandon such thoughts and “cleave” to her husband. It was only after being
introduced to NOW (National Organization for Women) 16 years later that she would finally find the courage and resources to come out as a lesbian.

Ivy Bottini works the Women’s Booth at the Christopher Street West pride festival in Los Angeles, June 1977 (x).

Just a month after attending her very first NOW meeting, Ivy
had helped start the New York chapter of NOW and two years later, in 1968, she
would be voted in as its president. Her contributions to the organization were monumental; the logo she designed remains the NOW logo in 2017 and she
was the first member to ever address lesbians as a part of the mainstream
feminist movement by hosting the panel “Is Lesbianism a Feminist Issue?” in
1969. After Betty Friedan began excluding lesbians from NOW chapters across the
county (which we talked about more over here!), Ivy moved to California and became
more active in lesbian and LGBT-centered civil rights organizations. She
founded AIDS Network L.A., which was the very first of its kind in the city,
hosted the first LGBT radio show on a major American network, and became the first out lesbian to be appointed to a state board in 1981.

Ivy photographed by Kevin Scanlon painting in her studio (x). 

In 1993, Ivy co-founded Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing
which was the first nursing home type facility specifically for gay and lesbian
elderly in the United States. Throughout her later years, she has remained
active in activist circles with a particular interest in the LGBT elderly and
in restoring LGBT history, having worked with organizations such as The Lavender
Effect and  ONE National Gay and Lesbian
Archives. Thank you for paving the way, Ivy!!

-LC

JULY 19: Zanele Muholi (1972-)

Happy 45th birthday to Zanele Muholi! The South
African photographer, visual artist, and LGBT activist was born on this day in
1972.

Self portrait from SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA by Zanele Muholi, 2015 (x).

Zanele Muholi was born on July 19, 1972 in Umlazi, Durban
and was the fifth and youngest child born to Ashwell Tanji Banda Muholi and
Bester Muholi. After spending her childhood in Umlazi, she then moved to
Johannesburg to study Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in
2003. Her first solo exhibition was given a year later at the Johannesburg Art
Gallery. The buzz following her first solo show eventually allowed Zanele to
attend Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, where she received her MFA in
Documentary Media in 2009. Her thesis made a big splash in the LGBT art world,
as Zanele constructed a visual map of black lesbian identity in post-Apartheid
South Africa.

Zanele describes herself as “a visual activist dedicated to
increasing the visibility of black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex
people.” Her main goal in her art is to capture the history of African LGBT
people and community for future generations. Before she left for school in
Canada, Zanele had worked for the online magazine Behind the Mask as a photographer and journalist, and had
co-founded Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), which was a meeting ground
for black lesbians in South Africa to come, vent, and feel safe. Returning back to
South Africa in 2009, she founded a non-profit organization called Inkanyiso,
which focused on visual activism and capturing African LGBT people’s lives and
stories. In 2010, Zanele helped to direct the documentary Difficult Love, which was shown in South Africa, America, and
throughout Europe.  

Today, Zanele is an Honorary Professor in video and
photography at University of the Arts Bremen in Bremen, Germany and her work
has been shown everywhere from the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town, to
the Singapore International Arts Festival, to the Brooklyn Museum in New York
City.

-LC