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Gay and lesbian artlocked

  • Christopher Reed

Extract

The phrase ‘gay and lesbian’ art is problematic. For starters, these terms reflect late 20th-century notions about sexual identity. They replaced older medical labels, such as ‘urning’, ‘homosexual’, or ‘invert’, and such earlier vernacular terminology as ‘bugger’ or ‘sapphist’, and have since been supplanted for many people with the catch-all term ‘queer’. These shifts in terminology both reflect and enable the changing conceptions of sexual identity outlined in this article.

A second linguistic problem is the use of such terms to describe art. Clearly, it is not the art itself that is gay, lesbian, or queer. Rather, these identities pertain to individuals and communities associated with art in various ways: what the art depicts, what is known of the artist’s biography, how the art was used in its own time or subsequently. The invention of gay, lesbian, and sexual identities and the association of these identities with certain kinds of art—and with art in general—are specific to modern culture, with its twinned tendencies to promote and categorize individual variation....

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