SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

The Fine Arts Musuems of San Francisco, Downtown Center, 651 Howard Street

Suzanne Lacy, The Bag Lady (1977)



When I was getting ready to do this piece, I went walking in downtown San Francisco to find a bag lady. I saw a woman in a worn blue coat looking through a vacant lot. I walked over and told her my name, and I said I was looking for a woman who was living on the streets and did she know of any? She said she had a room herself and she was just going and something about babysitting and she said she had found just now a cane but it was broken. Her sentences ran together vaguely and she didn’t look into my eyes. She wishes me luck in my career and didn’t I have a nice job? And then she wandered off.

The next day I was sitting on the lawn in the park. I saw her walking a block away. She looked in each trash can as she went, and when she looked in my direction she waved. She stopped short; then kept walking; then hesitated; then began to scream without looking at me, “You leave the street people alone, they don’t want you, I’ve got to go now, you’ll get yourself killed, I have to babysit now, leave them alone…” She trailed off, yelling angrily. People in the park heard her and, not knowing who if anyone she was yelling at, thought she was crazy. (Lacy 2010: 55)