Working in New York. Washington, D.C., and San Francisco from the 1960s into the 1990s, Donna Gottschalk photographed herself along with her family, friends, lovers, and activists in the queer communities there. Frustrated that lesbian bars—primarily run by the mafia and often raided by police—provided one of the only social spaces for meeting other gay women in New York at the time, she joined the Gay Liberation Front in 1968, and later the Radicalesbians. Through these activist groups she met lesbian artists JEB (Joan E. Biren), Flavia Rando, and others, and later moved to California to join lesbian-separatist communities. These intimate portraits of the individuals Gottschalk has known and loved, including photographs of her sibling Myla who transitioned later in life, remained mostly unseen until her 2018 exhibition at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, which was instigated by JEB and curated by Deborah Bright.
Donna Gottschalk grew up on New York’s Lower East Side in low-income tenement housing, where she lived with her mother and three siblings. She began photographing at the age of seventeen and later studied art at Cooper Union in the 1960s. When she was eighteen, Gottschalk joined the Gay Liberation Front and later joined the Radicalesbians, and she participated in many political actions. Later in life, she moved to Connecticut to open a photo lab with her partner, Tony, which they ran for thirty-eight years. Brave, Beautiful Outlaws was first exhibited in 2018 at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in New York and the work has been featured in the New York Times, Wallpaper*, and Hyperallergic, among many other publications. Now in her seventies, Gottschalk lives on a small farm in rural Vermont.
Brave, Beautiful Outlaws at Blue Sky Gallery features thirty prints by Donna Gottschalk from her archive spanning over forty years.