Subscribe to Art + Ideas:

We’ve asked members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. These recordings feature stories related to our daily lives.

This week, Erin Fussell longs to “cut a rug” again as she looks at photographs from the 1978 Dyke of Your Dreams dance at the Women’s Building. To learn more about this event, visit: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/2017m43_6d9d703f54c264dc247ef2511a82bd4d.

Listen to the full series of short reflections here.

Transcript

JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll find these stories about our daily lives—from laundry on the line to a dog at a scholar’s feet—thought provoking, illuminating, and entertaining.
ERIN FUSSELL: Hi, I’m Erin Fussell and I work in digital preservation at the Getty Research Institute. I’m also an artist and I need a lot of solitude in general in my life to think, process, and reflect in order to create. But this much alone time in my apartment during the pandemic has felt kind of insane! And I’ve really missed going out.
So, I’ve been thinking about this great series of photographs from the Los Angeles Woman’s Building records collection that I recently digitized. This particular photo set documented a Valentine’s day event in 1978 called “Dyke of Your Dreams” that turned a derogatory term directed at lesbian women on its head and made it empowering instead.
These images show women playing music, doing a go-go-type dance number, hamming it up for the camera, being sassy, sexy, cool. They look like they had so much fun together that night.
The event took place at the Los Angeles Woman’s Building that was located on North Spring Street downtown. The building housed a collective of artists and organizations centered around feminism with a number of different spaces like a cafe, a bookstore, studios, and a gallery. They hosted a bunch of different events like classes, exhibitions, concerts, and conferences.
But the tensions that arose within the feminist movement as a whole also seem to have played out at the Woman’s Building. There were issues of power dynamics and egos, issues of how feminism didn’t successfully address race or class. And they did not agree on what does or does not define what being a feminist means.
However, what struck me with these photographs is that this event had a looser vibe than other ones I saw documented in the collection. Maybe because it wasn’t an educational experience—it was a party. And the title of the event clearly makes lesbian love the theme. While I can’t know exactly what that meant to them at the time, I do know that lesbian events were not typical which makes them revolutionary to proudly host this one. And lastly, whatever their identities were, they came together that night to celebrate love for Valentine’s day.
“Dyke of Your Dreams” happened in the same month and year that my parents eloped in Las Vegas–February 1978–and they’re still together after all of these years. It makes me think about how cultivating love in our lives allows us to value each other because of our differences, fight for equality, and find connection in our shared humanity.
It also makes me miss my friends and family scattered all over the world more than I usually do. And I think about how much I look forward to the time when we can all get together again to let our hair down and cut a rug.
CUNO: To view this series of photographs from the Woman’s Building event “Dyke of Your Dreams,” taken in Los Angeles in 1978, click the link in this episode’s description or look for it on primo.getty.edu.

JAMES CUNO: Hi, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. In a new podcast feature, we’re asking members of the Getty community to share short reflections on works of art they’re thinking about right now. We’ll be releasing new recordings every other Tuesday. I hope you’ll fin...

Logo for Art Plus Ideas podcast
This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
See all posts in this series »