HAPPY/L. A. HYDER
I believe I always wanted to be an artist, even before I knew the words for it. Sometimes I wonder how I kept, or even found, that image of myself. Growing up in my working-class, ethnically Eastern European and Mediterranean neighborhood did not offer that option. At the age of forty-six, known as an artist and director of an arts organization of my own making, I am grateful I did.
My years in college (as an English major) coincided with the realization of pop art and psychedelic art. Both were easy to grasp, concerned with the present moment, often political, and exciting to see. "Finding" women artists gave me another sense of my possibilities as an artist and fostered my feminist streak even before I could recognize or articulate it. The mystique of making art surrounded me as the accessibility of pop art made my mouth water.
I moved to San Francisco in 1969 and circumstances were such that within a year I had a 35 millimeter camera in my hands— instantly calling myself a photographer and jumping into it. Printing a picture from film I had taken was the most exciting thing I could imagine.
Photography allows me to record what I see and have it come alive in the richness of black and white. My sense of a good photograph is based on those which first excited me. They came from Life magazine and such artists as Margaret Bourke-White and Eugene Smith, both masters at their craft and innovators in photography.
I combined my art with my emerging activism in the 1980s as a founding member of Vida Gallery in the San Francisco Women's Building and became part of a world populated with feminist activists. Vida Gallery featured the work of international women artists from 1981 to 1986; not a radical concept although often taken as one.
It was during these years I first began using art to express my Arabness. It opened another part of myself as I used my strongest