Monday, June 28, 2010

Gay Pride 2010

This past weekend was Gay Pride 2010, the 40th anniversary of the first parade in the City. One of my friends, NV, came up from Miami Beach for his first NYC Gay Pride, which turned out to be a fun-filled weekend with the boys. On Friday night, we ate dinner with AR & JM at a new Thai restaurant in Chelsea. NV & I then headed to Splash, where we met up with more friends for a few hours of high-tech dancing and “acrobatically inclined” go-go boys (don’t ask, you had to be there). I had the dance remix version of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” playing in my head for most of the next day (see below).

On Saturday, NV & I headed to the Brooklyn Museum for two queer-themed exhibits, Andy Warhol: The Last Decade and American High Style: Fashioning a National Collection. (We also wound up going to The Metropolitan Museum of Art today with MP & CF to see the other half of the same fashion exhibition, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity; both exhibitions are beautiful, but the Met’s installation is a stunning visual feast for the eyes.) Following the Brooklyn Museum visit, we did some obligatory clothes shopping at Brooklyn Industries. After a mandatory disco nap, we headed out for the night to another friend’s place where 10 of us met up and had cocktails (vodka & cranberry seems to be the gay drink these days) along with pizza and salad for dinner. Afterwards we all went to Eastern Bloc in the East Village for some classic 80s music, where we met up with yet more friends. I was under some ridiculous notion that this bar would have a dance floor, but that was not the case, so we basically squished ourselves into a long stretch of people, sweat our asses off, ordered more drinks, and created our own dancing zone, including on boxes overlooking the crowd.

Sunday was the official Gay Pride Parade. My friends and I were a little disappointed in it this year. It may have been because the theme was more about social action such as the legalization of gay marriage, and as a result the parade was less the over-the-top, sexy, flamboyant craziness as it had been in the past. As bklynbiblio readers know (including from my more detailed explanatory post on last year’s parade), I purposely avoid politics on this blog. I do of course have great respect for the long history of activists who have helped make a difference in civil rights (including, for instance, the lesbian activist Storme DeLarverie, one of the original Stonewall protesters, who according to this recent article in The New York Times sadly now has dementia and lives in a nursing home in Brooklyn). However, when it comes to the parade, people really just want to be entertained. Yes, we admit it, we want more floats with hot go-go boys dancing on them. We got a few, but not enough. (One of the lesbian clubs had a float with sexy dancing girls on it!) It was also surprising that no one threw out beads (a la Mardi Gras) as they always have in the past. I’m not sure if that’s a product of the suffering economy or a desire to keep the City cleaner. All that said, don’t be completely misled by our disappointment, because there were some festive floats with outlandish figures (Latinos know how to party). You can see a great photo stream of pictures by Tom Giebel on his Flickr group. The picture above is by him as well, and it shows just one of the gay groups marching. Who knew there was a group that brought together queer bloggers in NYC?! After the parade, we went to Barracuda for drinks, Rafaella’s for dinner, and then home to crash. Needless to say, I slept well last night.

In the spirit of Gay Pride, here’s Lady Gaga’s provocatively queer video for “Alejandro.” I feel so privileged that my own name gets vocal prominence after those of Alejandro and Fernando.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DW meets VVG

I love it when my disparate areas of interest converge. When it comes to Doctor Who, this does happen on occasion. For instance, in the episode "Tooth and Claw," Doctor David and Rose go back to 19th-century England and have an adventure with Queen Victoria and werewolf-like aliens, during which Rose keeps trying to get the queen to say "We are not amused!", and HRH eventually establishes the Torchwood Institute for the protection of the British Empire from alien attacks. In the next new episode of the show, however, Doctor Matt and Amy head to 1889 Provence in which they meet Vincent van Gogh (whom, I might add, has never looked so beefy!). The artist is being hounded by an invisible monster-like alien. I must say, it's an interesting idea: it certainly offers us another explanation as to whether he was mentally unstable or not. The image you see above is a digital adaptation of van Gogh's famous painting (from the Museum of Modern Art) in which Terry Lightfoot has added in the upper right corner near the moon the Doctor's TARDIS (i.e. his time travel spaceship in the shape of a blue police box). The strange thing about all of this is that last year SVH actually sent me a magnet with the exact same image, although on the magnet the TARDIS is more in the center and larger. I cannot for the life of me find the magnet anywhere on the Internet, so I now suspect she traveled to the future and brought one back, probably in anticipation of this storyline. The episode aired on June 5 in the UK, but Americans will see its premiere next week. Alas, I'll have to wait even longer, but for a good reason. NV from Miami Beach will be staying with me while we celebrate NYC Gay Pride with friends.

Friday, June 11, 2010

BQH Conference

A few weeks ago, while I was in Florida, the executive committee in my graduate program met and, I'm pleased to say, approved my dissertation proposal: "Refashioning the Gods: John Gibson, the Roman School of Sculpture, and the Modern Classical Body." As you may remember from a previous post on this blog, Gibson was a British sculptor who moved to Rome in 1817 and established a studio there, becoming one of the most important sculptors of his day. My dissertation will address how Gibson was both a classicist and a modernist, how his appreciation of ancient Greco-Roman art merged with his understanding of modern taste, and thus made him the successful sculptor that he was in his day.

In addition to my upcoming residential fellowship at the Henry Moore Institute, and a travel award from my school, I was informed this week that I also have received another award: the Spero-Goldreich Dissertation Fellowship. The money from this award is going to pay my travel expenses to do research in London at the Royal Academy this fall. I am extremely grateful to the private sponsors of this award.

Before I leave for England, however, I'll be making a stop in Montreal first, where I will be delivering a paper at the British Queer History Conference at McGill University. I am on a panel session on 19th-century British art with my friends and colleagues Carolyn Conroy (on Simeon Solomon) and Jongwoo Jeremy Kim (on Henry Scott Tuke). Christopher Reed from Penn State is our moderator. It should be an interesting conference, with talks by Jeffrey Weeks, Matt Cook, and others. You can see the whole program here.

You may be wondering how all this relates to the picture above. That is a photograph I took in April 2006 of Chatsworth, truly one of the most magnificent estates in England, still owned by the Duke of Devonshire and his family. The 6th Duke was one of Gibson's first patrons, and my upcoming conference paper will be about how these two bachelors negotiated the aspects of queer art patronage in the early 19th century. Here is the abstract for my paper.

The Sculptor and the Duke: John Gibson, the Duke of Devonshire, and Queer Art Patronage

During the winter of 1819, the Duke of Devonshire visited the Roman studio of the British sculptor John Gibson. At the time, Gibson was working on a seven-foot model of a sculptural group of two nudes entitled Mars Restrained by Cupid. The Duke immediately commissioned the work in marble. In the sculpture, the idealized warrior god and the ephebic god of love gaze into one another’s eyes as Cupid gently restrains Mars from brandishing his sword. Alluding to the pederastic tradition of ancient Greece, as well as the sensual aesthetics of the Biblical David as sculpted by Donatello and Michelangelo, Mars Restrained by Cupid is an example of early nineteenth-century queer art from the perspective of subject, artist, and patron.

Born in Wales and raised in Liverpool, the artist John Gibson (1790-1866) eventually made his way to Rome where he studied sculpture under Antonio Canova. Thereafter, he established a lifelong career in Rome as a British expatriate sculptor. Gibson came to count among his patrons Queen Victoria herself, but his legacy to art was the reintroduction of polychromy into sculpture with works such as the Tinted Venus, which premiered at the International Exhibition of 1862. Espousing the teachings of J.J. Winckelmann and the art of ancient Greece, Gibson produced interpretations of ephebic gods in marble, such as The Sleeping Shepherd Boy (1818) and Narcissus (1829). His patron, William Spencer Cavendish, the sixth Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858), inherited his title upon the death of his father in 1811 and began renovations at Chatsworth, including the construction of a sculpture gallery. Once the Napoleonic Wars had ended, he went on his first Grand Tour to Rome, and it was during this trip that he commissioned the statue by Gibson. He subsequently commissioned or purchased work from other sculptors in Rome, almost all of which were of mythological nude males, including Endymion by Canova and Ganymede with the Eagle of Jove by Adamo Tadolini. His arrangement of these works at the entrance to his sculpture gallery inevitably created a queer space through which one had to pass in order to see other works in the collection.

In this paper, I will consider the juxtaposition of Gibson’s sculptural oeuvre with Devonshire’s choice of art objects for this gallery, a queer space in which Mars Restrained by Cupid played an important role. Certainly it is true that representations of the nude male epitomized idealized beauty in Neoclassical art, and not all such figures are inherently queer in nature. However, art historians such as Thomas Crow have noted that there were homosocial artistic circles, such as the atelier of Jacques-Louis David, and that he and some of his students did paint subjects that pointed to the ancient Greek pederastic tradition. This spirit of homosexualism, according to Whitney Davis, demonstrates that in the early nineteenth century representations of same sex passion existed before the conscious manifestation of a homosexual identity occurred later in the century. Citing published and archival biographical and commercial information, as well as theories on the collecting and display of art, I will consider the sculptor Gibson and his patron the Duke of Devonshire as a case study for the existence of queer art patronage in Britain and Rome in the early nineteenth-century.