Lesbian Constellations: Feminism’s queer art histories

Day: Saturday 7 April


Catherine Grant (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Laura Guy (University of Edinburgh)

Session Abstract

‘What is a lesbian? A lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion.’ –The Woman-Identified Woman Manifesto, 1970 What are the unrealised possibilities in a meeting between lesbian-identified visual culture and emergent perspectives in queer feminist art history? This panel will follow Catherine Lord’s contention that ‘feminism’ is a category I choose not to split from homosexual, from lesbian, or from the oppositional politics implied by the word ‘queer’ (2007). From this position, Lord traces a feminist art history that grapples with the instability and invisibility of the term lesbian, imagining it as a set of ideas, rather than a stable identity.

Contributions to this session track exchanges between lesbian identity and visual culture across differing historic moments and geographic locations. Turning variously toward the intimacies and affiliations, material conditions and aesthetic strategies that ground experiences of identity, this panel builds upon the groundbreaking work of artists and writers such as Laura Cottingham, Harmony Hammond and Cherry Smyth to ask how lesbian visual culture might be a resource for feminist art history. Framing current scholarship through emerging perspectives in queer feminist art history, the panel asks how lesbian feminism might be rendered as something that ‘touches wires’ (Heather Love) between the terms ‘queer’ and ‘feminist’ in ways that require exploding existing categories within the field?

Speakers & Papers

Melissa L. Gustin (University of York) Mossy Grottoes: Harriet Hosmer’s lesbian fountains

Katarina Wadstein MacLeod (Södertörn University) Elitist artists and activist women: Collaboration, co-ordination and cohabitation

Oona Lochner (Leuphana University of Lüneburg) ‘To Write Is to Become’: Feminist art writing by Jill Johnston and Arlene Raven

Liz Kim (Texas Woman’s University) Early video activism and Lesbian Mothers (1972)

Amy Tobin (University of Cambridge) The Gymkhana and the Circus: Forms of erotic community between women

Flora Dunster (University of Sussex) ‘These Women Are Beyond Recognition’: Del LaGrace Volcano’s xenomorphisis and the queer lesbian feminist

Alexis Bard Johnson, Aché and the Production of Black Lesbian Visual Culture

Tara Burk (Rutgers University) ‘Hot Nights and Rowdy Romps’: The queer art history of On Our Backs

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