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Drawing by anonymous artist in Psychedelic Sex from Buzz Bense’s Gay Stash: A Memorial Exhibition. n.d. (pre-1975)

Drawing by anonymous artist in Psychedelic Sex from Buzz Bense’s Gay Stash: A Memorial Exhibition. n.d. (pre-1975).

Most memorial exhibitions don’t feature homoerotic artwork that revels in cum shots, rim jobs, and anal penetration, let alone these salacious scenes rendered from multiple angles through a psychedelic perspective. But then again, Buzz Bense wasn’t most people. And the Center for Sex & Culture (CSC) isn’t most art exhibition spaces: the drawings in Psychedelic Sex from Buzz Bense’s Gay Stash: A Memorial Exhibition seem to exist in an erotic world of their own.

Ardent activist, seasoned performer, avid theater director, and sex-positive force in San Francisco throughout the ongoing AIDS crisis, Buzz championed safe sex and community during times when those terrains were particularly fraught. He passed away on November 19, 2016 at the age of 67, leaving a legacy of sexuality activism and special, smutty collections.

CSC is now the repository of the Buzz Bense Collection, which includes a significant archive of over 200 safe sex posters, dating back to the 1980s, that Buzz donated to CSC in 2011. In 2013, I had the pleasure of co-curating SAFE SEX BANG: The Buzz Bense Collection of Safe Sex Posters, an exhibition of nearly 100 of these posters with CSC’s gallery director Dorian Katz. Buzz powerfully described the collection he amassed: “These posters do more than chart the tragedy of an epidemic, of an outsider community reeling from grief, loss and the decimation of a blooming culture of sexual liberation. The history of these posters is a story of a fight against stigma, hatred and ignorance; of a community stepping up to take care of its own; of finding a way to extinguish fear and build pride and self-esteem; of devoted efforts of committed activists to communicate a path to health and survival.”

Install image of Psychedelic Sex from Buzz Bense’s Gay Stash: A Memorial Exhibition. Photo by Dorian Katz.