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We're Here: Gay and Lesbian Presence in Art and Art History
This issue of the Art Journal began with the 1994 College Art Association conference session "Who's Building the Closet? Visual Culture and Art Historical Suppressions," co-chaired by Jonathan Weinberg and myself and co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Caucus of the CAA. The extraordinary interest and enthusiasm expressed by audience members both during the conference and in the following weeks seemed to be a call from within art history for perspectives derived from lesbian and gay studies. Work by participants in that session, the art historians, critics, and artists Joana "Juba-Ometse" Clayton, Laura Cottingham, Michael Lobel, Erica Rand, and James Smalls, comprises the nucleus of material presented here. As a group, the contributors represent diverse perspectives and training - activist and scholarly, visual and text-based, critical and celebratory.
For more than two decades, precipitated by the feminist movement, the gay/lesbian liberation movement, and the AIDS crisis, discourses of gender, sexuality, and sexual identity have been central to visual representation. What are the implications of sexuality and sexual identity treated as "categories of analysis"(1) for the disciplinary paradigms of art history? Central to our inquiry is a commitment to a discussion of sexuality and sexual identity as they are known and constructed within frameworks of race/ethnicity, class, and gender.
In the process of bringing this issue to press, the panel's initial inquiry, "Who's Building the Closet? Visual Culture and Art Historical Suppressions," one that implies the complex of knowledge practices necessary to construct and maintain closed closet doors, was transformed into the assertion, "'We're Here': Gay and Lesbian Presence in Art and Art History," with its implied (but not articulated) coda/supplement, "We're Queer, Get Used to It." At once confrontational, celebratory, and hopeful, this statement invokes a history of putative absence necessitating, once again, the …