Category: Uncategorized

Brass of Agnes Oxenbridge and Elizabeth Etchingham

Brass of Agnes Oxenbridge and Elizabeth Etchingham

Artist: Unknown (London Workshop F)
Media: Brass
Date & Location: c. 1480, Etchingham Parish, Sussex
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Significance to Queer Art History

Etchingham Parish and The Brass of Agnes Oxenbridge and Elizabeth Etchingham is where this art historian dreams of making a lesbian pilgrimage. This brass is a memorial commemorating two women who were buried together with an inscription requesting God’s mercy for them both. Elizabeth appears on the left with her hair down and she is smaller than Agnes. This is likely representative of her being both unwed and young when she died in 1452 in her mid-twenties. Agnes is shown on the right and (although she too seems to have remained unwed) she is shown as a more mature woman likely because she was in her fifties when she died in 1480. Bennett finds evidence for both women remaining unwed in the lack of head coverings, lack of records (both marriage records and records of their lives as was often the case with single women), and lack of any mention of husbands on the memorial (Bennett, 133). She also describes how this brass was designed in the style of contemporary memorial brasses for married couples, but with additional intimacy. Unlike the contemporaneous brasses, which often show couples looking straight ahead, Agnes and Elizabeth face each other and look into each other’s eyes (Bennett, 134).

There also seems to have been no qualms about the relationship between these two women. It was unusual that Agnes be buried with Elizabeth instead of in the Oxenbridge mausoleum, but both families must have agreed for it to have happened and in turn chosen to commission such an intimate memorial (Bennett, 133). The initial request for the site of burial, as Bennett suggests, most likely came from the lost will of Agnes herself.

This brass is also interesting for the notable attempts to fit it into cis-heteronormative expectations of history. Bennett writes “some have described the brass as a memorial to two children [despite them both living into adulthood]; others have imagined they were looking at two entirely separate brasses [despite the inscription referring to them both and their being connected]; and still others have fiddled with genealogies to minimize any direct relationship between the two women (Bennett, 131).” She attributed these manipulations to homophobic anxieties, which result in “bad history” and argues for the place of Elizabeth and Agnes in the “histories that modern… queers rightly seek from the past (Bennett, 136 and 141).”

Resource(s)

Judith M. Bennett, “Remembering Elizabeth Etchingham and Agnes Oxenbridge,” in The Lesbian Premodern, edited by Noreen Giffney, Michelle M. Sauer, and Diane Watt. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

A memorial brass of two women standing side by side looking into each other's eyes. It is mounted on a grey stone wall. The woman on the left is smaller with her hair down. The woman on the right taller with her hair up. Both wear long gowns that brush the ground. The inscription is underneath the figures.
Brass of Elizabeth Etchingham and Agnes Oxenbridge, c.1480


Il Sodoma (1477-1549)

Il Sodoma (1477-1549)

Giovanni Bazzi, also known as Il Sodoma. (A mocking name aimed at Bazzi’s homosexuality that Bazzi later began to embrace) was a painter of the Italian renaissance, born in Savoy, Italy.  He was influenced by the prior works of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael in his historical, mythical, and religious frescoes.

Featured Artwork: Marriage of Alexander the Great and Roxana (1571)

Where can I find this artwork?: Fresco at Villa Farnesina in Rome
Significance to Queer Art History: Alexander the Great is featured in the middle, gazing at his soon to be wife, Roxana as she is undressed by cupids for their consummation of marriage. Meanwhile, on the right, a clothed Hephaestion (Alexander’s best man) leans upon the marriage god, Hymen. Hephaestion was a general in Alexander’s army along with being his intimate partner and personal body guard. The two were inseparable throughout life. This fresco by Il Sodoma, exemplifies Alexander the Great’s bisexuality through Hephaestion’s closeness to the marriage god. While not married by law, Alexander and Hephaestion’s closeness during the marriage of Roxana and Alexander remains.

Resources & further reading:

The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Il Sodoma.” Encyclopædia Britannica. March 31, 2017. Accessed August 2017. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Il-Sodoma.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 97-99.

Michael Page- Bisexual Pride Flag (1998)

Michael Page- Bisexual Pride Flag (1998)

Michael Page is a Florida based bisexual activist, creator of BiCafe (closed) and BiNet USA volunteer.

Featured Artwork: Bisexual Pride Flag

Date and Location: December 5, 1998 in Florida, USA

Significance to Queer Art History: The Bisexual Pride flag was created by Michael Page and debuted on December 8, 1998 on BiCafe . com (now defunct.) Page wanted to create a prominent symbol for the bisexual community just as the gay pride (rainbow) flag was prominent to the gay community after its creation by Gilbert Baker in 1978. He chose the colors for the flag for the popular “Bi-Angles” symbol of triangles and combined them into a flag that used 40% pink (to represent homosexuality), 20% purple (to represent a combination of homosexuality and heterosexuality), and 40% blue (to represent heterosexuality).

The pantone color codes from Page are as follows: PMS 226, 258, and 286

Bi-Angles symbol that inspired Michael Page (Creator Unknown): 

Resources & Further Reading:

Baxter-Williams, Libby. “Hoisting Our Colours: A Brief History of the Bisexual Pride Flag.” Biscuit. Accessed August 25, 2017. https://www.thisisbiscuit.co.uk/hoisting-our-colours-a-brief-history-of-the-bisexual-pride-flag/.

Ruocco, Caroline. “Mashable Publishes an Up-to-date Compilation of LGBT Flags and Symbols.” GLAAD. June 16, 2014. Accessed June 2017. https://www.glaad.org/blog/mashable-publishes-date-compilation-lgbt-flags-and-symbols.

Wong, Curtis M. “‘Celebrate Bisexuality Day’ Exists Because Of These Three LGBT Activists.” The Huffington Post. September 24, 2013. Accessed August 2017. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/24/celebrate-bisexuality-day_n_3977289.html.

Marilyn Roxie- Non-Binary Pride Flag (2011)

Marilyn Roxie- Non-Binary Pride Flag (2011)

Marilyn Roxie is a genderqueer writer, musician, and digital media designer. They, created genderqueerid.com/ on Tumblr while attending San Francisco City College. Roxie, along with being a designer and musician, manages an online record label called Vulpiano Records. They currently attend San Francisco State University for Digital Media and Emerging Technologies. Learn more about them here: http://marilynroxie.com/

Featured Artwork: Non-Binary/ Genderqueer Pride Flag

Marilyn Roxie created this flag for a project in 2010 to find a visual identity similar to other pride flags such as the transgender flag (created by Monica Helms in 1999) and bisexual pride flag (Created by Michael Page in 1998) with colored bars representing specific meanings. Roxie came up with three colors after various revisions and simplifications that fit this criteria:

  • Lavender: A blend of traditional “male” and “female” birth assignment colors (pink and blue) to represent those who categorize themselves fitting both binary genders.
  • White: to represent those who are completely outside of the gender binary.
  • Dark Chartreuse Green: An opposite of lavender to represent those who feel neither male nor female in their identities.

After the flag’s creation, it was spotted in rallies and pride events around the world and is used widely by non-binary communities. However, Roxie still accepts submissions for new flag ideas and color palettes for community discussion. Visit http://genderqueerid.com/ for more information on genderqueer and non-binary identities as well as more information on the flag and its history. 

Resources & Further Reading:

Roxie, Marilyn. “About the Flag.” About the Flag. Accessed August 2017. http://genderqueerid.com/about-flag.

Roxie, Marilyn. “Marilyn Roxie.” Marilyn Roxie. Accessed August 2017. http://marilynroxie.com/.

 

Mike Caffee- Fe-Be’s Leather David (1966)

Mike Caffee- Fe-Be’s Leather David (1966)

Featured Artwork: Fe-Be’s Leather David

Date & Location: 1966 in San Francisco, CA (USA)

Media: Plaster

Where can I see this artwork?: The GLBT History Museum in San Francisco, CA (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: 
Created originally on commission for Fe-Be’s, the first leather bar on Folsom Street in San Francisco, CA.
This was a re-creation of Michelangelo’s iconic “David” as a leather biker icon. The iconic figure later appeared in other plaster and even bronze statues at bars around the United States.

Michelangelo’s David for reference: 

Resources & Further Reading: 

Caffee, Mike. Fe-Be’s Leather David. 1966. GLBT Historical Society Museum, San Francisco, CA.

“The Leather David or Fe-Be’s Statue.” The Leather David or Fe-Be’s Statue. Accessed August 2017. http://leatherdavid.blogspot.com/.

Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Featured Artwork: The Musicians

Media: Oil Paint

Date and location: 1595 in Rome

Where can I find this artwork?: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: Caravaggio’s work, characterized by his dramatic chiaroscuro technique (chiaroscuro uses dramatic lights and darks to model the figures coming out of the shadows in a “theatrical spotlight” manner) were sensual and dreamlike. This work in particular hosts a homosocial event of music and its connections to love, as signified by the cupid on the left side of the painting.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

“Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) | The Musicians | The Met.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accessed August 2017. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/435844.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 114-118.

 

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas

Mickalene Thomas is a black queer artist who uses mixed media to create large pieces of her muses, mostly black women from different races, sexualities, gender identities, and expressions.

Featured Artwork: Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires (Translates to: Two Black Women)

Date & Location: (2013) by Mickalene Thomas (Born 1971)

Media: Photography, collage, and woodblock print processes

Where can I view this artwork?: Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithica, NY (USA)

Significance to Queer Art History: This selected work from Mickalene Thomas is part of her series “Origin of the Universe” that draws from “traditional” (Read: white-centered art history) paintings. Thomas combines the pose and intention from Gustave Courbet’s Le Sommeil (Translates to: “The Sleepers”) from 1866 with her own photography and processes as a claim of black women’s place in media and art as erotic and soft, just as the women in Courbet’s painting are portrayed.

Courbet’s Le Sommeil:

Resources & Further Reading: 

Gonzalez, Desi. “MICKALENE THOMAS- Origin of the Universe.” The Brooklyn Rail. Accessed June 2017. http://brooklynrail.org/2012/11/artseen/mickalene-thomas-origin-of-the-universe.

“Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires.” Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Accessed June 2017. http://museum.cornell.edu/collections/modern-contemporary/mixed-media/sleep-deux-femmes-noires.

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/.

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Peithinos Painter- Peithinos Cup

Featured Artwork: Peithinos Cup

Date and Location: (525-475 BCE) Athens, Greece

Significance to Queer Art History: This cup is a kylix vessel, used for male centered social drinking of wine. Most kylix vessels had sexual or humorous depictions of individuals on the inside (a surprise for finishing the drink, if you will) and outsides. This kylix vessel, signed by the painter, Peithinos, shows heterosexual and homosexual courtship on the exterior.

Where can I see this artwork?: Currently in the Antikenmuseen’s Collection in Berlin, Germany.

Resources & Further Reading:

“200977, Berlin, Antikensammlung, Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg, F2279.” Provenance – The Classical Art Research Centre. Accessed August 08, 2017. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/XDB/ASP/recordDetails.asp?id=5C03CFDF-D841-432A-8B2C-FAAD6697E456&noResults=&recordCount=&databaseID=&search=.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 21-27.

 

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Unknown- Tomb of Niankhnum and Khnumhotep (2400 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Entry Fresco to Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s Mastaba

Date & Location: 2400 BCE in Saqarra, Egypt

Significance to Queer Art History: This mastaba is the joint tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. The two men were the chief manicurists and groomers to the king in their time. The nose-to-nose “kiss” pose given to them is intimate and was only given to straight married couples for Egyptian art at this time.

The wives and children of the two men are shown in the tomb as well, but less prominently featured than Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep’s relationship. Khnumhotep is even seen to be occupying roles of a wife figure for Niankhnum in certain frescoes inside the mastaba.

 

Resources & Further Reading: 

“Evidence of Gay Relationships Exists as Early as 2400 B.C.” Egyptology. Accessed April 2017. http://www.egyptology.com/niankhkhnum_khnumhotep/dallas.html.

“Tour Egypt.” The Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep at Saqqara in Egypt. Accessed April 2017. http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/niankhnumt.htm.

 

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Kritios and Nesiotes- Tyrannicide Monument (477 BCE)

Featured Artwork: Statue of Harmodius and Aristogeiton (Also known as Tyrannicide Monument)

Original artists: Kritios and Nesiotes (477 BCE) in Athens, Greece.
The only remaining pictured sculpture is a Greco-Roman copy that can be signified by the figure’s dependence upon faux wooden bases

Where can I view this artwork?: Naples National Archaeological Museum in Naples, Italy

Significance to Queer Art History:

The warrior lovers Harmodius (right) and Aristogeiton (left) rescued the ideals of democracy from a dictator and were heroes to Athens in 514 BCE. Thus, the statues of the warriors were commissioned to be displayed in the public forum. This was the 1st statue to honor mortal heroes instead of divine heroes in public.

Symbolism to note: 

  • Aristogeiton, the older warrior (left) lunges forward and offers a protective cloak for Harmodius. This may symbolize the warrior’s mutual devotion and platonic love to one another.
  • Statues at this time were no longer static and archaic. Instead, they showed idealized realism and movement in posture as the figures place their feet forward and stand in contraposto (meaning, that weight is shifted to one side of the figure.)
  • Both figures are nude. Nudity in Greek sculpture was reserved for gods/ goddesses, warriors, and athletes.

Resources & Further Reading:

“Crizio E Nesiote.” Crizio E Nesiote — Sito Ufficiale Del Museo Archeologico Nazionale Di Napoli. Accessed August, 2017. http://cir.campania.beniculturali.it/museoarcheologiconazionale/glossario/ploneglossarydefinition.2008-06-09.8429349527

“Perseus Digital Library.” Classical Tyrannicides (Sculpture). Accessed August, 2017. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Classical%2BTyrannicides&object=Sculpture.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York, NY: Viking, 2000. 17-21.

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.