Great Gay Leathersex Art: Who was Michael Palmer?

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It measures about 5′ x5′ and used to hang in the Jackhammer, an old Leather bar in San Francisco. The Jackhammer has been closed since 1996 and this painting now hangs in a private home. It is signed “Palmer” in the lower right corner. A quick consultation trip to Brand X antiques in the Castro district secured a last name, a look at a couple of prints on sale for a couple of thousand dollars each, and an awful story. The proprietor told us that the artist’s first name was Michael. He had quite an extensive body of work, most of which he held in his studio. When he died in the middle of the plague years, his mother, horrified by her little boy’s adult proclivities, destroyed everything.

This sort of thing happens too often. Wonderful Willie Walker, friend of this site, and founding member of the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society, used to dumpster-dive the estates of deceased gay men whose “families” would throw away their collections in shame. Walker – a hero to gay historians and a legend among archivists of any stripe. We miss you, you little weirdo.

Western art is built on the bodies of naked ladies. They call it “The Nude.” The ancients understood the beauty of the male body. We understand it. But – and this is for artists and collectors especially – the folks might not. Make wills, make bequests, make sure your lover has power of attorney, give gifts to the young gays and make sure the good stuff gets into good hands. Generations coming up will need their history. We are making it now and it is our responsibility to make sure it survives.

Meantime, any information on Michael Palmer, gay artist living in San Francisco in the 1980’s would be much appreciated.

For a bit on  Chicago-based artist Etienne, click here.

9 responses to “Great Gay Leathersex Art: Who was Michael Palmer?

  1. Paul Policelli

    I have a piece in my home. It is signed Palmer. A gift from the 80’s.
    It is a young man lying on a bed with a leopard on his shoulder – full size – not a tatoo.
    Black and white pencil. Very detailed.
    I’m interested in selling.
    Any thoughts?

  2. Hi, I happen to live in San Francisco and was recently given a whole bunch of prints and other miscellaneous art by both Michael Palmer and another guy by the name of Stephan Strafford. Honestly, I am not much of an art enthusiast and couldn’t tell you much more than some of the work are prints, some are done in pencil and some of the other works are half completed. I would be interested to learn the value of this collection with an eye to sell it due to my recent encounter with unemployment. If anyone is interested or good point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it.

  3. Peter McDivit

    I worked at the Jackhammer and remember that photo well. It was one of the VERY few oil paintings by Palmer, mostly his work was pencil or pen and ink in black and white.

    This painting was large, about 5ft x 5ft and was a portrait of a former IML winner, His name was Patrick Toner and he won in 1985. The subject posed for several magazines nude, this one had him in a leather jockstrap. It was on the back wall of the Jackhammer over the door that lead to the back bar.

    • Hi, Peter. Thanks for the details! This painting is in our collection now. It will be exhibited, along with other work by Palmer, and a lot of other good art, in a show called Tough Love: A Half-Century of Masculine Homoerotic Imagery from the San Francisco Bay Area. It will be up at The Center for Sex and Culture in September. Hope you can make it to the opening or Folsom weekend reception. Details on this site soon…DrJ2

  4. I have a palmer and as well the person who he did it for mr drummer 1984

  5. I bought “Solar God” by Michael Palmer from his partner Jai Williams in 1990. Unique Gallery (long gone) in the Castro carried the work of Palmer.

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