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Artist Sadie Barnette Pays Homage to San Francisco’s First Black-Owned Gay Bar

By Danielle Dorsey

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Oakland-born artist Sadie Barnette creates work that explores the abstraction of city space and the process of elevating the mundane into magic. Through mediums that range from drawing to photography to large-scale installations, Barnette weaves text, glitter, family Polaroids, and found objects to create visual compositions that rewrite buried histories into inspiring fables rooted in resilience. 

Barnette’s past works include an installation inspired by the FBI’s investigation into her father, Rodney Barnette, who started the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party, where damning documents were splashed with fluorescent paints and crystals to perhaps highlight their fantastical quality. Her most recent project is an installation called The New Eagle Creek Saloon, a recreation of San Francisco’s first Black-owned gay bar, which her father ran from 1990 to 1993. 

In an interview with Hyperallergenic, Barnette said that her installation was a commemoration of her father’s dedication to the Black community and that creating a safe space for Black queers was intertwined with his political activism with the Black Panther Party. The Black LGBTQ+ community is often forgotten in the retelling of queer history and it’s Barnette’s mission to highlight the work they’ve done, especially within the rapidly gentrifying Bay Area. 

The original Eagle Creek Saloon wasn’t well-archived and Barnette took some artistic liberties with her installation, intending for it to be a place where young queer and trans people could relax and play, but that also served as a resting stop for queer elders who are often excluded from such spaces. Barnette’s reimagining of Eagle Creek features neon lights, glitter-encrusted sound speakers, and furniture that shimmers holographic.

The New Eagle Creek Saloon will finish it’s run at The Lab in San Francisco and will culminate as a float in the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 30.

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