Saturday, April 11, 2009

Responses for April 17

Laura Cottingham, “Notes on Lesbian,” Art Journal 55, no. 4, We’re Here: Gay and Lesbian Presence in Art and Art History (Winter 1996): 72-77.

Harmony Hammond, excerpts from Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History (New York: Rizzoli, 2000). Introduction, pp. 7-13; Part One “Representing the Lesbian Nation: The ‘70s,” pp. 15-25; Part Two “Remembering the Body: The ’80s,” pp. 51-57; Part Three “Lesbianizing the Queer Field and Other Creative Transgressions: The ‘90s,” pp. 111-123.

James Saslow, “ ‘Disagreeably Hidden,’ Constructing and Constriction of the Lesbian Body in Rosa Bonheur’s Horse Fair,” in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992), pp. 187-205.

Maud Lavin, “The New Woman in Hannah Höch’s Photomontages: Issues of Androgyny, Bisexuality, and Oscillation,” in Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 324-341.

Julie Cole, “Claude Cahun, Marcel Moore, and the Collaborative Construction of a Lesbian Subjectivity,” in Reclaiming Female Agency: Feminist Art History After Postmodernism, eds. Norma Broude and Mary Garrard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 342-359.


  1. hey Ellen. i was looking over the culminating essay topic for the class in relationship to women, feminism, and my works as an artist. the question i have is, as a male artist (or the notion of male art historians/artists), how is it possible to talk about realms of women or feminism without the implication that as a man i have no ground in this subject? i guess what i'm trying to say is if i discuss women and feminism in my writings and art, in the most intellectual and scholarly manner possible, it remains futile considering that i am male. are there any contemporary male art historians or sociologists discussing women's art and feminism? how have critics perceived their writings/discourse?

    i'm just concerned about any biased connotations for any one gender in the works i continue to accomplish, or Freudian slips, and the way future generations see or interpret my works when i'm dead. i realize it won't matter to me when i'm gone and shouldnt fret on things of this nature, yet these thoughts have been ticking at me for the past few weeks.

  2. I just read the Cottingham article, and I thought it was very interesting to read how lesbians have no full history. Like women artists who we don't know as much about, lesbians have even less. I liked how she painted a picture of what it would be like is homosexuals and heterosexuals were reversed. I think everyone who is biased against these groups should take some time to consider what life would be like from the other side. She wants lesbians to scream their presence to the world, and not let up. I found this very empowering, even as a heterosexual woman.

  3. What I find most interesting in the reading by Julie Cole is the way Cahun and Moore's works play between the fields. I always find myself interested in individuals or anything for that matter that plays between two extremes. Cahun and Moore's photographs used both material and content to show hoe their "lesbian subject not conform to either identity but could draw from each."

  4. "how" not "hoe" their lesbian subjects were not required to conform to either identity but could draw from each.

  5. To be honest I did not make it through all of the readings but I did read the Cahun one and the other one before it. I have always found Claude Cahun fascinating, and I am glad to learn some things about her that I didn't know. I never knew that most of her work was intended for Moore. It makes me wonder what stuff of mine might end up out there someday.The discussion of the gaze, and how different it is with a different intended audience was pretty cool.

  6. I'm posting late today, but I did want to write about Cottingham's article, and how it brings up the topic of how those who are homosexual are often viewed as being just that, and many people have a problem of not seeing anything else. I get tired of the labels in general, as they create binaries and divisions on their own despite that sexuality isn't quite so black and white. I also found the text about Claude Cahun interesting, especially her work as a whole as it plays with the ambiguity of these labels.

  7. Harmony Hammond talks about Lula Mae Blocton...."One of the first artists to be out there in the overlapping and often conflicting territories of gender, race, and sexuality..." - Her conflict reminds me of the women we discussed from the 70s who felt like they were forced to exclusively choose which oppression they wanted their voice to be identified with. She was faced with a three way tug of war... trying to appease audiences that expected visual literalness and inherency concerning either feminism, lesbianism or race.

    Blocton -"As a young adult in college, one attraction for being an artist was that I thought art was color and gender blind. Who would be able to tell this kind of information from these pictures? It was quite an awakening when I realized that the art world is no different, and in many cases, worse than the rest of society....I learned early that my work would not please everyone but I tried. When Black people would ask me about the blackness in my art, I started to paint portraits of my heroes, including self portraits. It is interesting to see these paintings now because of my shallow attempts at defining what meant to be black. Dealing with what I thought was the gender issue in my work, I rationalized the influence of weaving and transparencies. This again was a superficial and stereotypical way of justifying why I make art. Being a lesbian was explained by referring to many of the elements in my work such as shapes and colors as sexy."

  8. Laura Cottingham broaches the subject of "heterosexualization of the feminist art movement" - This has a lot to with the absence of a lesbian presence in the history books. There were women like Betty Friedan who were great pioneers for the feminist agenda but served as unfortunate dividers when it came to homosexuality. Betty Friedan wanted to keep the feminist movement "mainstream" and felt that lesbians were in conflict with that mission. She was "opposed to equating feminism with lesbianism." - Her words. She coins the term "Lavender Menace" to describe the lesbian threat....

    "The term "Lavender Menace" was coined by Betty Friedan, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1969 to describe the presence of lesbians in the early women's rights movement. Betty Friedan and others believed the presence of lesbians was hurting the movement. She went so far as to omit the Daughters of Bilitis from the list of sponsors of the First Congress to Unite Women in November 1969.

    Later a group of radical lesbian feminists reclaimed the name and called themselves The Lavender Menace. The lesbians who formed the Lavender Menace were part of feminist and gay rights groups, including NOW and the Gay Liberation Front. Early members included Rita Mae Brown, Karla Jay, Lois Hart and Barbara Love.

    The Lavender Menace staged an action at that Second Congress to Unite Women in 1970 by storming the stage and taking over discussion. They encouraged audience members to join them in discussing lesbian issues and heterosexism. By doing so, they educated feminists about the connection of sexism, homophobia and heterosexism.

    The Lavender Menace changed its name to Lesbian Liberation and finally to Radicalesbians. The group disbanded around 1971."

    The Daughters of Bilitis -
    "Daughters of Bilitis: First National Lesbian Organization:
    In the 1950s there were few options for lesbians to meet each other outside of gay bars. The Daughters of Bilitis was founded in 1955 in San Francisco by eight women, including long-time activists Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon and Barbara Gittings to provide an alternative to the bar scene.
    Daughters of Bilitis: Lesbian Activists:
    The Stonewall Riots in 1969 are often thought of as the beginning of the gay rights movement, but even before 1969 gays and lesbians were gathering to start to demand their rights. Daughters of Bilitis was formed as a social group, but quickly became active in the early homosexual rights movement. They saw the need to educate both other lesbians and the general public, to advocate for legal reform and research.
    The name Daughters of Bilitis comes from a poem by Pierre Louys called "Song of Bilitis," about a lesbian living on the Isle of Lesbos with Sappho.
    The Ladder:
    In 1956 the Daughters of Bilitis begam publishing a monthly magazine called The Ladder. The Ladder contained poetry, fiction, news items, book reports and social commentary written by and for lesbians.
    A National Organization:
    By 1958 Daughters of Bilitis had chapters in Los Angeles and New York and several other cities. Different chapters had different focuses but included discussion groups, social events, activism, research projects and coordinating with homosexual male groups like The Mattachine Society."

  9. Didn't know what "Bilitis" meant (I'm glad I wasn't supposed to).............

    The name of the newfound club was chosen in its second meeting. "Bilitis" is the name given to a fictional lesbian contemporary of Sappho, by the French poet Pierre Louÿs in his 1894 work The Songs of Bilitis. The name was chosen for its obscurity; even Martin and Lyon didn't know what it meant. "Daughters" was meant to evoke association with other American social associations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution. In the beginning, its members felt they had to follow two contradictory approaches: trying to recruit interested potential members and being secretive. Martin and Lyon justified the name, writing later, "If anyone asked us, we could always say we belong to a poetry club." They also designed a pin to wear to be able to identify with others, chose club colors and voted on a motto "Qui vive", French for "on alert". The organization filed a charter for non-profit corporation status in 1957, writing a description so vague, Phyllis Lyon remembered, "it could have been a charter for a cat-raising club."