Katie Gilmartin

The Lex
Viscosity linocut
8.25 by 12.75"
2008
(Exhibited at S.F. LGBT Center)
Work in Exhibition:

The Lex
Viscosity linocut
8.25 by 12.75"
2008
(Exhibited at S.F. LGBT Center)

Forbidden Love
8.25 by 12.75
viscosity linocut
2009
(Exhibited at S.F. LGBT Center)

Whisper His Sin
8.25 by 12.75
viscosity linocut
2008
(Gallery view; left)

City With No Shame
8.25 by 12.75
viscosity linocut
2009
(Gallery view; middle)

Valencia Vamp
8.25 by 12.75
viscosity linocut
2008
(Gallery view; right)

Artist's Statement:

My interest in pulp fiction dates from my graduate school days, interviewing women who lived in the rocky mountain region during the middle of the twentieth century.  I framed my initial question in the broadest possible way – “Tell me about your life” – and was surprised at how many of their life histories were anchored by an electrifying moment in a rural podunk’s Five and Dime.  She was browsing the wire racks of trashy fiction when a racy cover caught her eye: a haughty brunette, a melting blonde, and a world of tension between them.  She furtively bought the novel and cried over its tragic ending, but within its pages found a name for her desires.

For women who lived in towns like Olathe, Yuma, or Laramie, pulp fiction was an important signpost on their path to identifying as a lesbian. Women’s softball teams, seedy bars, and gym teachers all played pivotal roles, but for women in rural areas, pulp fiction often provided the first inkling that others had similar erotic and romantic attractions.  A few lesbian pulp novels of the era were great.  Most were awful.  But the covers were almost always dynamite, with or without ironic distance.

The covers express eloquently the social tensions and cultural preoccupations of the era.  Gender terrorizes, as men resolutely strive to prove their manhood and women exist to adorn.  Women’s sexuality terrifies, threatening to tear the known world asunder.  Race, if not white, generally lurks in the shadows, enticingly exotic or menacing.  Gay sexuality mesmerizes, a hovering contagion.  To some extent, the very fact that they read today as overblown camp or offensive dreck is an indication of how far we’ve come.  And yet I found myself drawn to reclaiming pulp art’s busty babes; sex may have been their only source of power, but what delicious domination it was.

- Katie Gilmartin