Just since 2009 when she turned 70, pioneering queer filmmaker Barbara Hammer has had a retrospective of her work at MoMA in New York, the Tate in London, and the Jeu de Paume in Paris; her short called "A Horse Is Not a Metaphor" won a Teddy at the Berlinale; her brilliant and inspiring book Hammer!: Making Movies Out of Sex and Life [Kindle] won a Publishing Triangle Award, won a Lammy, and was a favorite on Thebes' queer lit poll; and this year she won a Guggenheim. All deserved, and all infinitely more gratifying when you remember she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006. Her decades of creating dozens of experimental work to record queer lives (Dyketactics, A Gay Day, Superdyke Meets Madam X, etc.) reached a new high in 1992 with her first feature documentary Nitrate Kisses, acclaimed at Sundance, festivals worldwide, and at the Whitney Biennial. She says, “I choose film and video to make the invisible visible. I am compelled to reveal and celebrate queer and other people whose stories have not been told. I make a multi-level cinema that engages audiences viscerally and emboldens them intellectually. My current work has turned towards recovering missing histories of lesbian artists and is inspired by the words of Gayatri Spivak who cautions against an uncritical archivism leading to nostalgia.” The MoMA curator wrote:
... she came out as a lesbian, an act that helped radicalize her approach to directing. Galvanized by the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, she soon became a pioneer of queer cinema. Hammer has since directed more than eighty films, using avant-garde strategies to explore lesbian and gay sexuality, identity, and history, along with other heretofore unrepresented voices. In the 1970s her films dealt with the representation of taboo subjects through performance, and in the 1980s she began using an optical printer to make films that explore perception. In the 1990s she began making documentaries about hidden aspects of queer history.
Barbara was born in Hollywood, graduated from UCLA, and earned two masters degrees at SFSU. She has lived in New York City for many years and still teaches each summer at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.