This article originally appeared in the June/July 1993 issue of OUT.
“I’m not just a girl,” Sadie Bennington says of her sexual identity, on-screen or off. But the 20-year-old Milwaukee-born video artist isn’t just another kid playing cross-dress-up either.
A favorite of the lesbian and gay film festival circuit, with eight short works to her credit, al made with a Fisher-Price toy Pixelvision camera, Benning has in the last year received a $35,000 Rockefeller fellowship and become something of an art world celebrity as well, much in demand at museums and schools all over the country. This summer, she shoots footage for her first feature-length film (“or whatever it turns out to be”), Girl Power.
A kind of boxcar-girls-go-Hollywood road fantasy set to the music of Bikini Kill, Girl Power will feature a pair of 16-year-old lesbians lovers who do “all the things I wished I could have done in high school and all the things I was actually having to deal with,” Benning relates. The experience has proved hair-raising for producers—Sadie likes to sleep late, prefers using her friends to professional actors, and only begins to structure a story while editing—and so, for the moment, she will continue as an independent agent.
Without minimizing her native talents, Benning Believes her present notoriety is owed in part to having come of age in an MTV world were the availability of inexpensive video equipment provided her with the perfect creative means to explore her emerging sexuality. Working from a kind of rummage-sale aesthetic, Benning has in fact become a mature artist whose breakneck visual vocabulary has given the public its most affecting and intimate look yet at the hidden world of lesbian youth. In her hands, a comb drawn through the hair or the simple unscrewing of a bottlecap can seem like the most touching sort of erotica.
And clearly there’s a need for it. “I know from traveling that there are secret superstars all over, 13- and 14-year-olds, doing really incredible things in their bedroom,” she says proudly, adding, “We are not so alone.”