Verasphere: 25 Years of Love, Art, Joy
Harvey Milk Photo Center & San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department
Visual AIDS Artists David Faulk (“Mrs. Vera”) and Michael Johnstone began creating art together in 1994. When they started, photographing Mrs. Vera in Snapshots and Mrs. Vera’s Daybook Series of photographs, examining everyday life, alienation, magic and survival, provided them with relief from the anguish of the AIDS epidemic. Both men had been members of creative, vibrant groups of artists, drag queens, club performers, and theater people that were decimated by the epidemic. Mrs. Vera enabled David and Michael “not to dwell on all the loss” going on around them. For their audiences, Mrs. Vera magically gave everyone permission to be silly and outrageous, with Michael there to make the photographs, to bear witness and make art of it. They continue to make art to this day.
Mrs. Vera’s and Michael’s greatest contribution to the world may be simply the exuberant joy they foment wherever they go – LGBTQ events, street fairs, festivals, and the annual San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade, before which the two conduct workshops where they assist dozens of others in making Vera-esque costumes for the Parade. “It is almost an ambassadorial role at times,” Michael has written, “to remind people of the eccentric aspects of queer life, both now and in another time. We have rewoven the torn fabric of community and created a tribe, encouraging people from all walks of life to join in and celebrate simply being.” Michael and Mrs. Vera consider themselves to be direct descendants of the outrageous 1970s theatrical troupe the Cockettes, “turning up impromptu in many places, both appropriate and inappropriate… without the acid!”
David and Michael are still out there, giving people permission to be silly and outrageous, still encouraging us not to dwell on loss and gloom, still inviting us to participate in Mrs. Vera’s brand of larger-than-life joy — the perfect antidote to the stormy future we face in 2018.*
Curated by Dave Christensen, Director
Production Assistant: Nicola Bosco-Alvarez
Friday, Sept 21st 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
* Text above by Hank Trout - full interview available here.