This year Deborah Kass followed up her 2007 come-back solo show, Feel Good Paintings For Feel Bad Times with More Feel Good Paintings For Feel Bad Times. Kass is no newcomer to the art world; she emerged from obscurity in the early 80s with her tongue-in-cheek meditations on Andy Warhol. Somehow in the ensuing decade she was largely ignored by the New York art world establishment until the 2007 solo show at Paul Kasmin. That it was well-received is an understatement—the paintings sold out. Kass seamlessly mediates politics, pop culture, pop-art and personal narrative in deceptively light-hearted ways. This year’s More Feel Good Paintings continues Kass’s winning streak and was among the critic’s picks for the best shows of 2010 by the Huffington Post as well as New York Magazine. In addition to her solo show this year she was included in Shifting the Gaze: Painting and Feminism at The Jewish Museum, New York and the highly controversial and historic HIDE/SEEK at the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington D.C.
13. Myth Buster - Laura Flanders, Political Commentator/Host, Grit TV
She may not be quite as ubiquitous as her former Air America comrade-at-arms, Rachel Maddow, but give Laura Flanders some time—and a few more book deals. This year, the British-born journalist and host of the web-based current events show GRITtv heartily capitalized on the midterm elections to tell her version of the “narrative that’s missing” in American media. Making a splash among the wonks in 2007 with “Blue Grit,” a survey of the Democrats’ effort to take back the party, Flanders covered the emerging Tea Party movement this past year with the anthology At the Tea Party, a tome on the fledgling, madcap movement and the reasons Americans must not dismiss it. Despite her wonky tilt and appeal to politics junkies, Flanders remains most dedicated to fighting what she calls the “all-about-the-money media” and preserving true storytelling. “For me,” she says, “media has always been an activist job.” Amen, sister.
14. RabbleTRousers - Jeanne Cordova and Lynn H. Ballen, Organizers of BVLA
Partners in life and in gender rabblerousing, butch-femme couple Jeanne Cordova and Lynn H. Ballen found themselves at the forefront of a new movement in 2010: one in which, as Cordova says, “the ‘B’ in LGBT stands for ‘Butch.’” As the chair and “’unofficial’ co-chair” of October’s Butch Voices regional conference in Los Angeles, Cordova and Ballen led a dedicated group of organizers to put on the three-day “gathering of the butch tribes” and their allies. The conference featured community-building panels, seminars, and workshops, as well as cultural showcases like a fashion show and a “Butch Revival” night of music and entertainment. We’re proud to recognize Ballen and Cordova’s efforts to build community, as well as to empower and bring cutting edge queer culture to the under-represented (and heretofore woefully under-organized) Southern California community of queer female and trans masculinities.
15. The Gold Standard - Catherine Opie, Artist
Catherine Opie, Bo from "Being and Having", 1991. C print, 17" x 22". Image courtesy Regen Projects, LA.
It is not possible to acknowledge Catherine Opie’s contributions as an artist without mentioning the monumental impact she’s had on lesbian visibility. Opie put “dyke” into the visual lexicon of contemporary culture when her photographs began to appear in the international art world. Opie broke onto the scene in the early 90’s with her series of portraits “Being and Having” in which she shot a studio-style series of butch boys, a group of pals she ran with as a young art queer in Los Angeles. Opie’s portraits have since become the gold standard idolized by young lesbian photographers coming out of art school. In 2008 the Guggenheim Museum honored her with a mid-career retrospective, one of the greatest honors an artist can receive. Since her early dyke work, Opie has pursued themes of cityscapes, landscapes, and images of Americana. This year she returned to dyke portraiture with her solo show Girlfriends at Barbara Gladstone (New York). In addition to a body of sensuous, regal photos the show could have been a historical survey, a Who’s Who of lesbian culture-makers including Diana DiMassa, JD Samson, Kate Moennig, and Jenny Shimizu (an early subject of Opie’s), just to name a few.
16. Freedom Writer - Kiana Firouz, Iranian Actress/Documentary Filmmaker/Activist