Category: Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming

ACT UP Los Angeles- Sir Lady Java

ACT UP Los Angeles- Sir Lady Java

Featured Artwork: Sir Lady Java poster by ACT UP Los Angeles

Date and location: Los Angeles, CA (USA) (1990)

Significance to Queer Art History:

This poster is a piece of “artivism” used by ACT UP Los Angeles that features a painting of Sir Lady Java (1943- ), a black transgender performer who was prominent in the 1960s and 70s nightclub scene in Los Angeles. This was carried around in Los Angeles and Orange County Pride parades.

In 1967, the Los Angeles Police Department began shutting down Java’s performances citing “Rule Number 9”, a city ordinance that banned “impersonation by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex.” This led Java to consult with the ACLU to overturn this measure. Courts ruled that only individual clubs could sue performers. Rule Number 9 was later shut down in accordance to a separate issue. From Sir Lady Java during the time of her fight for the right to work: “I feel strongly about discrimination against male-females and female-males. I am fighting to have our kind accepted on merit and merit alone.” 

Resources & further reading:

Artist Unknown, “Sir Lady Java” Sign Carried by ACTUP/Los Angeles in Los Angeles and Orange County Pride Parades, Part of a Larger Series of Placard Signs Honoring LGBTQ Pioneers in Southern California, circa 1990. ONE Archives at the USC Libraries.” ONE National Gay Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries. Accessed August 13, 2017. http://one.usc.edu/motha/motha007/.

Roberts, Monica. “Sir Lady Java- Trans Civil Rights Warrior.” TransGriot. January 01, 1970. Accessed August 13, 2017. http://transgriot.blogspot.ca/2010/12/sir-lady-java-trans-civil-rights.html.

“5 Black Trans Women Who Paved the Way.” Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. February 24, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2017. http://www.masstpc.org/5-who-paved-the-way/.

 

Greer Lankton (1958-1996)

Greer Lankton (1958-1996)

Greer Lankton was an American Artist based in East Village in New York City. She created and re-purposed dolls as expressions and interpretations of herself, her imagination, friends, and influential celebrities. Lankton, a transgender woman, was born in 1958 and physically transitioned and was subject of a few news articles in this time before college at the age of 21. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and Pratt. Lankton, since left a legacy of her work having been featured in the Whittney Biennial and the Venice Biennale in 1995 before her death in 1996. Her work has since been featured and remembered in the US with the 2014 exhibition, titled: “LOVE ME”

Featured Artwork: Bust of Candy Darling

Date & Location: 1989 in New York City

Significance to Queer Art History: Candy Darling, a transgender actress who was featured in several of Andy Warhol’s films was one of Lankton’s icons that she also looked up to as a trans woman. Inside the bust is a valentine-style heart next to a human heart that Lankton has fabricated. This could allude to the idea that, as a friend of hers, Julia Morton writes: “the artist’s life was sustained as much by fantasy as reality”.

Resources & Further Reading:

Morton, Julia. “Greer Lankton, a Memoir.” Artnet Magazine. January 27, 2007. Accessed May 2017. http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/morton/morton1-26-07.asp.

Nastac, Simona, and Massimo Grimaldi. “Unalterable Strangeness.” Flash Art. July 27, 2016. Accessed May 2017. http://www.flashartonline.com/article/unalterable-strangeness/.

Paul Gauguin- The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (1902)

Paul Gauguin- The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (1902)

Featured Artwork: The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa (Marquesan Man in the Red Cape)

Date & Location: 1902 in Hiva Oa, an isle in French Polynesia

Media: Oil painting

Significance to Queer Art History: This painting’s inspiration was drawn from Gauguin’s travels from France to the Polynesian Islands where Gauguin thought the lives and surroundings would be “untouched” by European influence and colonization. This painting depicts a māhū individual from Hiva Oa (not a man in a cape, as Gauguin describes the individual to his western standards of gender) who identifies with a third gender that can encompass both male and female roles, presentation, and even some spiritual aspects as māhū individuals were revered as healers as this person that Gauguin describes as a “sorcerer”.

Symbolism to note: The conversing fox and bird at the bottom right of the image are natural enemies with many differences. This is perhaps Gauguin’s way of portraying male and female genders “conversing” and getting along with one another to symbolize the māhū individual’s gender.

Editors Note: Gauguin’s view into the lives of the indigenous folks of Hiva Oa and the areas he visited in the Polynesian Islands may be untruthful and deemed offensive as he often exploited spiritual and cultural practices and added his own westernized European influences and concepts to his works while traveling to “un-touched” and un-colonized (the Polynesian Isles had already been colonized years before by the French) areas.

Resources & Further Reading:

Reed, Christopher. “Gender- Transcendant Homosexuality: Polynesia and North America.” In Art and Homosexuality: A History of Ideas. Oxford: University Press, 2011.

“The Men-women of the Pacific.” Tate. Accessed August 2017. http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/men-women-pacific.