A Face Should Jolt, Not Soothe
Drawings & Photographs by Students in Queer Graphix and Fashion Photography Courses, Spring 2022
Studio Art and Queer Studies are pleased to announce a pop up show in Bryant Art Gallery, A Face Should Jolt, Not Soothe: Queer Portraits. The show includes work from Professor Ron Abram’s Queer Graphix class, and Professor Sheilah ReStack’s Freeze that Look: Fashion Photography class. In the Queer Graphix class, students studied issues surrounding identity and queer portraiture. This included reading essays by Queer writer Charlie Fox and by Anais Duplan, and studying the work of contemporary queer artists such as Chitra Kanesh, John Brooks, Jim Winters, Devan Shimoyama, Amanda Kirkhuff, Boris Torres and others. They also watched films on Queer Art History to create the Queer Portrait Triptychs in the exhibition. Each student created a triptychthat included a Queer historical figure, a queer member of their immediate community orfamily, and situating themselves in the dialogue, a self portrait. Queer figures in the exhibition include Sylvia Rivera, Judith Butler, Christine Jorgenson, Hibiscus, Billie Jean King, Walt Whitman, Pedro Zamora, Willi Ninja, and Arsham Parsi amongst others. ReStacks’ class were responding to the prompt to channel Baron Adolph de Meyer, an early 20th century queer fashion photographer. De Meyer was an icon of a style of soft focus, excess and early efforts in queer inhabitation of social and cultural space. Students studied De Meyer’s work, and also read an article by Elspeth H. Brown titled “De Meyer at Vogue: Commercializing Queer Affect in First World War-era Fashion Photography” that helped students think about the use of queer affect and excess as a strategy, as well as ideas of modeling, posing and how issues of race, class and gender were also written into this early fashion photography work. Director of Queer Studies, Professor Ron Abram, states of his invitation to include the photographic work in conversation to his students queer portraits, “In Queer Studies, issues of identity as a performative act are discussed in a range of classes. The power to disguise their identities is so potent in the student photographic work. Students discovered new ways to not only pay homage to an influential photographer, but also queer their own representations through lighting and costumes. This vibrance interpretation of readings and theories through individuality and creativity is a cornerstone of Queer Studies at Denison. Senior BFA Maddie Kuentz states, ““As a queer student, it’s very empowering to see the queer work of the past coupled with current queer work.” Professor ReStack states, “It is just fantastic to see this degree of interest and curiosity on the part of students, and to have the opportunity to explore history and making through a queer lens is an important way of learning to see anew.”
The closing reception will be Thursday, February 17, from 4:30-6 PM, all members of the Denison community are welcome to attend. The title of the exhibition comes from a quote by Filmmaker John Waters on ideals of beauty in portraiture. His portrait is included in the exhibition as well.