James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center

Monday, March 19, 2012

Queering Art

Ever wondered about all those gay artists and how they've influenced the major art movements throughout history? About representations of same-sex desire in art? Or the ongoing threat of censorship of images of the queer body? Christopher Reed’s well-received new book Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas is a great place to begin exploring the relationship between art and queer sexualities. Focusing mainly on the link between modernism and homosexuality, but going back to the Greeks and forward to queer activism in contemporary art, the book is “a fascinating and sophisticated account of the ways two conspicuous identities have fundamentally informed one another.” Full of compelling images and with accessible writing, it has received numerous favorable reviews (here's one) because of its broad overview and unique approach to the subject.

Another recent book that explores the relationship between queer artists and modernism is Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, by Jonathan D. Katz and David C. Ward. The book documents an exhibition by the same name held at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution that debuted in 2010. With over 150 images, the book provides insight into the representation of same-sex desire in American portraiture and how the “marginality” of queer artists has shaped the ways in which they represented that desire, dramatically influencing modern art. Interestingly, a video installation piece by David Wojnarowicz was removed from the Hide/Seek exhibit at the Smithsonian after complaints by two Republican Congressmen and the Catholic League. It appears that the struggle to freely represent queer bodies and queer sexualities in images continues.

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