WHY/WHAT/SEX? LGBTQArtists Art Education and LGBTQA A research about the relevance of teaching art as self-expression to LGBTQA people By Pedro Sorto
INTRODUCTION ________________________________________________________________________ I am studying the relevance of teaching visual arts as self-expression to the LGBTQ community, because I want to know how art can provide minorities with ways to know themselves, in order to help the field to understand the topics that must be included in a curriculum directed to work with this specific group. This research is important in a personal way because of many reasons. First, I am part of this minority and I have felt the necessity of expression at some points of my development as a gay person. Second, I have seen the presence and work of LGBTQ organizations in the United States in contrast with the situation of similar organizations in my country (and many others), which has led me to a big awareness of the necessity of this community to tell stories, say things, and be heard; all this to generate conscience, acceptance and inclusion. And third, I discovered the role of art education as a critical social tool, engaged to help community and create community development. Therefore, I looked for the way in which art education could support this discriminated group in their fight. The research question will be: What are some important points to take in account when teaching art as self-expression to LGBTQ people? To answer this question we should answer others. What is the field of art education doing (or has done before) in relation to the LGBTQ community? What can the LGBTQ people as artists, teachers, and students contribute to the field? How has been the art used as a way of self-expression for former LBGTQ artists? How has been their work used in the art classrooms? As strengths of the study we can count: 1. The will for help from many LGBTQ organizations and their experience in the topic of diversity and sexuality; 2. The recently burgeoning concern from researchers and educators for knowing the necessities of a diverse group of students; and, 3. The growing number of LBGTQ people who are able to speak out since some time before. On the contraire, as limitations: 1. Even when some researchers have studied some aspects of the LGBTQ community as students in general subjects, it has not been found many researches that consider the effects of teaching specifically the art subject to that social group. 2. It has not been found many references of specific cases of teaching art as selfexpression for LGBTQ people. 3. For this research proposal, the focus will be to have an idea of what actual LGBTQ artists are doing nowadays in respect to the arts.
METHODOLOGY ________________________________________________________________________ To answering the research question of the project, it becomes essential the implementation of a workshop or course directed to LGBTQA people to use art as a way of self-expression. From that, an important question appears: What are actual LGBTQ artists doing nowadays in respect to the arts? This will be the main question in this document. To answer that question, this document follows this methodology: 1. The literature review will be the first step in the research. The literature reviewed at this stage can be divided in these: (a) topics about LGBTQ issues in general education, (b) topics in relation to self-expression through art, (c) topics on the relation between LGBTQ art and art education, (c) studies on LGBTQ artists, and (d) studies on teaching art for LGBTQ people. 2. As a support for the literature review, interviews with experts will be implemented. In this document, two interviews have been implemented. The first, with Jennifer Hoefle, expert in LGBTQ affairs; and the second, with poet Tc Tolbert, creator of a project involving LGBTQ people and the creation of art. 3. After that, the creation of a small survey inside a group of LGBTQA artists has been developed. Its objective is to investigate three points about their art involvement: what these artists are creating as art, why they are doing it, and how this is done. This step will be the data collection. 4. After the data is collected, its analysis will be implemented. The research for patterns and their possible reasons will be made. Based on the literature review, interviews, and the answers from the survey, conclusions will be expressed.
WORKING FOR/WITH LGBTQ PEOPLE ________________________________________________________________________ One of the confusing things about this term is how differently the people in its community call themselves. To some, the term ‘gay community’ includes gay men, lesbian, bisexuals, and transgender people. To some, it means only gay men. Some people like to use the term lesbian and gay community, while others feel that still leaves out bisexual and transgenders (Ford, 1998). The term LGBTQ is used to group members of the community considered as, as its letters in the acronym, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, and queer. The ways its members describe, accept, and define the term is as varied as their own diversity. The term began as LGB. Later, as the acknowledge of the transgender and transsexual people grew, the letter T was included. Then, some people were not identified with the term, because it was considered as labeling, so the term Queer was included. (Hoefle, personal communication, 2010). This Q also determines people whose sexual identities have not been form yet; they are defined as ‘questioning’. Some people, nowadays, have made the term even more inclusive by adding letters like, the I for intersex, another T for Two spirits, an A for Ally, and some include the concept of Same-gender-loving. Groups like the Lambda Community Center, in Fort Collins, Colorado, define themselves as GLBTIQQ organizations. In addition, some people have found the term as too ‘labeling’ and rejected to form part of it, arguing that human nature and sexuality are too broad to be classified. In this project, we will use the term LBGTQ to refer to any and all of these conceptions just for practical purposes1. Many facts and theories have been developed around the LGBTQ issues. Many people do not know the term and in some places, the concept is not approached and mostly rejected. Studies to understand these people have been made by many researchers. Some of them have found that members of this community are not well educated about their own sexualities and issues; moreover, they are influenced by myths and preconceptions of society. Education on these aspects has been undertaken by many organizations in many countries, specially developed ones. Misconceptions and doubts that people (specially young people) might have about LGBTQ affairs include: the meaning of the concept, the reasons why people are gay or lesbian, the quantity of gay and lesbian people in the world, the concept of homophobia, stereotypical social perceptions of gay and lesbian people, relations of gay and lesbian people and AIDS, homosexuality and religion, the definition and process of ‘coming out’, social relationships in gay and lesbian world, among many others (Ford, 1998). The importance of educating and informing about the reality of these LGBTQ facts, have been undertaken by many educators in a variety of fields. To perform an efficient roll as educator in a more inclusive society, an educator must be aware of the many issues a LGBTQ student might face in the classroom. Educators and educational institutions must know the real facts of this community in order to provide a fair education. Legal 1
Even the term ‘gay and lesbian’ might be used to refer to the entire LGBTQ community, depending on the source and author.
standards should be implemented in schools to achieve a just education. Teachers should know the facts, symbols, myths, history, and achievements of the LGBTQ community (Ford, 1998). The protection of these youth has to be in the objectives of teachers in any age of education, although many of them still might feel uncomfortable in front of gay and lesbian students. Changes and legal regulations are being made in order to prevent hate- or bias-motivated behavior, bullying, and sexual harassment in schools (Campos, 2005). However many changes need to be implemented to specially protect LGBTQ students who, year by year, are a group that presents high levels of suicides in the United States. Another important fact a teacher must have in mind is the presence of famous gay and lesbian persons as important builders of the world’s history. Jane Adams, Truman Capote, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, Michelangelo, Oscar Wilde, Alexander the Great, among others, are some historical figures who were (or at least several historians assert they were) homosexuals (Campos, 2005). This should give to us and our students, the realization of the fact that LGBTQ people are, and have been, essential for social development.
FROM AN EXPERT: AN INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER HOEFLE Jennifer Hoefle is the program director of LGBTQ Affairs, that is Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning affairs, at the University of Arizona. She is set up to sort students but also faculty and staff in the projection and education of the LGBTQA concept. This interview was made to include a closer view to the concept of LGBTQA and the activities some organizations are doing to help LGBTQA people. Some of these activities are, in some ways, related to the arts. Their work is mostly educational, and their mission is to make the university of Arizona an inclusive place for people of all sexual orientations and all gender identities. The mission is broad, but the practice, the way they implement it, is through programs and services, which are primarily educational. WHAT IS LGBTQA?2 LGBTQA is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, the Q is queer, or questioning, A is for ally. Some other institutions and organizations include, the I that is for intersex and TTT is for transgender, transsexual, and two spirits. The acronym tries to give recognition to very diverse communities outside. There are multiple communities within the LGBTQ culture. Historically the acronym comes from the gay and lesbian movement in the 60’s, bisexuality became more acknowledged in the 80’s, transsexuality and transgender have recognition in the 90’s, so the acronym in many organizations has been changing from LG, LGBT, LGBTQ, etc. in the past 10 or 20 years. The Q has been reclaimed in the last 10 years as an empowering term for some people. In addition, 2
Notice the use of LGBTQA instead of just LGBTQ. This organization is trying to be the most inclusive possible.
perhaps the acronym depends on when the organization is created and that reflects the time and history of that time. “The longer the acronym the harder it becomes especially when you are trying to educate people.” ACTIVITIES OF THE LGBTQ AFFAIRS: The program has three signature programs: the LGBTQ and allies support group, the training program, the ally development workshop, and the intern program, among others. The training program is an educational program for hours, a workshop on LGBTQ issues, like a LGBTQ 101. The second is an Ally Development workshop where people can think critically about what it means to be an ally, and how they can be allies to the LGBTQ community. Those are two deep educational experiences. Then they have an Intern Program. They have from 6 to 10 interns getting credit for doing work office for a semester or longer in Pride Alliance, and those interns create a whole variety of events. Therefore, they have events during wildcat welcomes for the U of A wildcats; the Queer Film Series, in which people can interface with the art of films; the Out of the Jobs speakers series, where we bring to talk people who are out at work and talking about what their experiences are like. In this event, they try to get a diversity of career fields. Their last speaker was an artist, Josh Shane, who did a series of portraits on all-out athletes. They brought his exhibit to the union gallery and he did an artist talk that night, but during the day, he did a talk about what it like to be out as an athlete and also as an artist. They also do Queer Sex workshops, the Coming Out week, the Transgender Awareness week, the National Day of Silence, Second Chance Prom, the Rainbow Graduation (a special recognition for LGBTQ and ally graduates), and a bunch of other activities. That recognition goes so far in terms that students really feel that they matter to the institution. Almost in every event, they have an artistic point of expression, like guest artists, singers, poets, exhibitions, etc. She herself has a background in the arts as a dancer, sometimes she performs, and has a deep connection with the arts and is aware of the great power of the arts to create community, to make something feel alive, and certainly the power of being able to express oneself. SOME VIEWS ABOUT GOING OUT OF THE CLOSET As an organization, they absolutely support people where they are at, whether that’s in the closet, or out of the closet, whether that’s one foot in and one foot out of there. People are out in many degrees because coming out becomes a life-long process, it is not something that you do once, as if you check it out and you are done. You have to constantly coming out to people. That is part of the reason why the organization created the support group on campus. The support group serves many purposes, but the main purpose, that is growing their services, is to support people through the coming out process, or through facing questioning. Many people are questioning their identities. These are people who are not necessarily coming to the pride parade, or to the queers forum series, or other activities that might make them feel like they be coming out by
coming to and event. However, they still need a venue to work through and discuss all of these feelings, and that is why the support group was created. Personally, Hoefle is completely out in her life from everywhere: with her parents, grandparents, professionally, “obviously I’m a gay for pay.” She has a job that is about being gay, so that part of her identity becomes really important in the context of this work. “Harvey Milk said please come out” she says. She interprets it as: the more people who come out, the more everybody has to face that we are all gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, questioning, people. Politically said it is that the more people who come out the more acceptance we will garner. However, it is on each person to determine even if when they are ready to do that, how safe it is to do that. She never encourages people to come out. She respects that they are experts in their own lives, and none is right for them to do it. When they are ready, she is so exited for them and would be their cheerleader and help them, but she would never push people to do something before they are ready. “I cannot say what everyone needs. But I can say for my own experience, when I was in the closet, it was very painful, and the people who I talk to who lived closeted lives for a long time and then came out, hiding a part of who you are hurts.” Coming out is exhausting, it takes a lot of mental energy to keep track of who knows what, who sees something, who sees you somewhere. All that mental energy that takes to hide takes a toll, “I took a toll on me and on the people who have lived closeted lives.” She gives the example of people who are in the military, institutions required that they stay much closeted. Personally, one cannot say what is best for people, someone might be fine with that, but in her experience, she has not encountered someone who is. DO LGBTQA PEOPLE NEED A DIFFERENT TREATMENT? As long as LGBTQA people are treated differently by the law, they are not giving the same rights as the other people. Heterosexual people and gender conforming people are not giving the same rights and privileges, there is no federal protection for employment, they are not allowed to get married, and these are huge legal issues. “Until these issues are resolved, our culture is treating us differently” says Hoefle, “I whish I would not be treated differently because I am queer, I expect to be treated the same as everyone else.” We cannot talk about a ‘different treatment’ outside of the context of where we are. It is still illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people and it happens everyday. It happens in term of the law, harassment, and violence. The levels of harassment and violence against LGBTQ people are high. Bullying is big problem in schools, 9 out of 10 students have experienced harassment. “We are treated differently in those ways; I wish we would live in a world where we are not. I wish I did not have a job, but I still see my job needed here,” continues Hoefle, “Just look at all the suicides. In the nation, there were about 8 suicides in September, students of 13, 15, 19, people is killing themselves because they are gay, or transgender, or are perceived as gay, and people are harassing them and bullying them, and some
people chose to end their lives and identifying bullying as the cause. We cannot ignore that.â€? POINTS TO TAKE IN ACCOUNT WHEN WORKING WITH/FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE: The LGBTQ is communities in plural, because there is so much diversity among its members. People can be diverse in terms of race, national origins, socio-economical class, gender expressions, religion, and ability levels. Because of that, when working with these communities, people have to recognize that there is no one LGBTQ experience. The LGBTQ experience is a prism of experiences that is more diverse than we are capable to comprehend in many ways because each individualâ€™s experience is different. There are patterns in our lives, in terms of homophobia, transphobia, harassment, bullying, and other power dynamics that we all might have experienced, but also all those are impacted by our inner sexual identities. To Hoefle, to bring a social justice perspective to her work with LGBTQ communities is important, because she needs to recognize that there is not just one way in which they can be looked. In serving the community and creating programs in advance, the challenge is how to bring in this as much diversity as possible, in the speakers and performers that you bring, the projects you are engaged on, the films that you show, how to expand the voices that are shared. As another point, there are the different levels of exposure people are used to. These people are not in the same point of the process of coming out. Some students consider themselves as activists, they are out there, on the mall, in the streets, working for and participating openly in the events of the LGBTQ community. However, there are other people who do not want to do that, they just want to blend, go to school, and get their degree. They are not going to come to a Queer Film Series, or hanging out with the Pride Alliance. And they also deserve to have an inclusive enough campus environment where they can go and do all those things and not to be treated differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They do not identify themselves as activists. There are also people who are questioning their identity and are so uncomfortable in their skin because they have not fully figured out who they are. They need the realm and the support to be in that in between space to really grapple the who they are. And they might not figure it out tomorrow, they need that respect and room to explore who they are so they can develop into a more whole person who is grounded in who they are, who can love and respect themselves. In addition, that journey is different for each person. For these people are uncomfortable and terrifying to be seen talking to Hoefle, because she represents gay on campus. To the super out activist person is totally different. They are such different ends of the continuum. Therefore, for her, as the only paid staff who is serving the community in this way, she has to be conscious of all these stages of development. Not to mention the difference between graduate and undergraduate students. Because graduate students define a completely different mean too. Graduate students primarily
define the community, they are grown up a little bit more, and they are older by nature and that gives them more skills to be able to do that. That is also a division in the community. In summary, the points to take in account are: the plurality and diversity inside the LGBTQA communities, the inclusion of social justice, the different levels of exposure of the participants, and the differences and maturity and expertise members might have. CONFIDENTIALITY The program has a strong policy of confidentiality. When someone meets Hoefle at her office, she respects that confidentiality and she would never share something that is shared there with someone else. In public, she tries to read their cues, “If they waved me I would certainly wave back, but I wouldn’t go out to them and say hello, how you doing?” She just takes their lead on how much they want to recognize their connection or not. The support group absolutely is a confidential environment. They ask people to pledge confidentiality at the beginning of each group. They clarify what their confidentiality means. It means that, among other things, that if you want to meet outside the group that has to be mutually agreed upon, participants cannot post some people’s facebooks, etc. They really need to respect that confidentiality. “LABELING” IN THE CONCEPT OF LGBTQA A tendency to reject the concept of LGBTQA has appeared in some parts of its communities. This resistance of the labeling part of the LGBTQ concept is more common in the younger generations. Hoefle thinks that is not always out of language to be able to describe someone’s identity. LGBTQA is a concept about identities. It is who you are and you get to identify yourself, and words have to really fit with who you are. She has seen how younger generations are rejecting labels. They do not want to be identified with some of the words of the LGBTQ concept. Some are more inclined to use the term “queer” because is getting outside of labels, but it is becoming a label itself. It is an interesting phenomenon. If we look at cultures that don’t have words in their languages to describe the gay, lesbian or transgender experiences, it makes us think on what kind of invalidation that is when there is not even a word for who you are, in contrast with the decades and decades of a strong LGBT movement. LGBTQ people have been expanding language to try to give voice to the diversity of identities. When working with these communities, we have to understand that phenomenon of rejection to labels, in the context of the history of people who fought really hard for our recognition. People would not be rejecting labels if there were more words like these. “You first have to have a language to describe these different-from-the-norm experiences in order to reject them. We have to know” expresses Hoefle. WHAT DO LGBTQA PEOPLE WANT TO SAY? Everyone has his or her own voice. Hoefle has heard people say: we are here, we exist; do not pretend that we do not exist. LGBTQ people deserve the same rights as anybody
else, like marry the person they love and get the many rights that come along with that; have the right to adopt the children they are raising, etc. They want to see themselves reflected in the curriculum; they want to know their history. In terms of LGBTQ people, they want to read authors, experience artists, and have teachers, to know that experience. That history it is not part of general education, it is not taught in the K-12 experience. Those histories are not considered worth knowing for the general population. Hoefle states, “It is like LGBTQ people have not been here for long, and we have always been here.” People who are not transgender, lesbian, or gay, or have not had that experience; they have to remember that there are people not like them in the world. PROGRAMS RELATING ARTS AND LGBTQA PEOPLE There are no many programs dedicated to teach art to LGBTQA people. Some of them are implemented by non-profit organizations and community centers. BICAS3, Bicycle Inter-Community Action and Salvage, is a center dedicated to the bicycle culture and has a program oriented to help transgender and women acquire knowledge related to bicycles. Many of the programs in BICAS are related to the production of art. Wingspan is the southern Arizona’s LGBT community center. Its mission is to promote the freedom, equality, safety, and well being of LGBT people4. In some of its projects, Wingspan includes the creation of art. Made for Flight5 project was created by Tc Tolbert, and for the official Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th). This project is based on the creation of poetry and visual art with the goals of building awareness, community, and a sense of the power and history of transgender people despite the many forms of violence and oppression they experience. This day is for the memory of the deaths by violence of transgender people throughout every year. Re:Configurations6, a project created in 2006, was about dance and storytelling. It was co-directed by Kimi Eisele and Jennifer Hoefle. A community program involved LGBTQ participants and moving stories. People did movement exercises, writing exercises, and found a way to tell their part of the story and transform it into movements. It was a powerful feedback of how people can share who they are and their identities. Hoefle recognizes, “The artistic expression can be so empowering for people. They can tell their stories in a different way, through painting, movement, writing, etc.”
3 4 5 6
Source: www.bicas.org Source: www.wingspan.org Source: www.madeforflight.blogspot.com Source: http://www.newarticulations.org/past-projects-2/reconfigurations/
ART EDCUATION FOR LGBTQ STUDENTS ________________________________________________________________________
SELF-EXPRESSION IN ART Teaching self-expression helps the student to understand him or her self, to realize that he or she are not a mass-produced sort of person, and that every one is unique, with unique thoughts and perceptions of the things. According to Harrison (1951), self-expression in art cannot be taught, it can only be encouraged. Self-expression is a subject in which the student is the expert. No one can tell anybody how to be him or herself. The role of the teacher is to provide them with materials, stimulus, and examples in order to take what is in their minds out. In situations of teaching sell-expression, we are not teaching art directly, we are fostering selfexpression. Students are experts on themselves, even unconsciously, and what they think about themselves is unique. The important point is not how students express it, it is what they have to say. Teachers or instructors may encourage the students to do their artwork in their own ways, not in othersâ€™. Some students might not know how to make their pieces to look right. At the moment in which the students have problems expressing themselves, that is when the teacher needs to get in action. This is done by suggesting methods, showing techniques, among many other actions and processes. Teachers can also lean on visual references as books, magazines, the Internet, etc. to stimulate creativity and invention.
SELF-EXPRESSION AND AT-RISK STUDENTS At-risk youth are those who have not found a way to integrate into the general educational system (Bickley-Green, 1996). These students might me isolated by the school community because they are perceived as not beneficial to the welfare of the academic community. Sometimes, they isolate themselves because they do not have the skills, or do not see the value, of participating in society successfully. The reasons of this might be the studentsâ€™ social talent, skills, and knowledge that are perceived as dissonant inside the conventional social structure. With guidance, these skills can be driven into creative thinking and positive change. Many great personalities in history have been marginalized in some way. Einstein, Picasso, Freud, Gandhi, and many others, experienced marginalization from society, yet they have contributed significantly to society in our times (Gardner, 1993). Many teachers can see in the at-risk youth a great potential for art expression. Institutions like The Harvey Milk High School, consider at-risk youth as those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ)7. In this school, Arts and 7
Taken from their webpage: http://www.hmi.org/Page.aspx?pid=230
Culture programs foster self-expression through dance, film, photography, painting, theater, and more, in order to help students explore their own identity, and build relationships. By tradition, art provides an opportunity for self-expression and a response to the expression of others (Bickley-Green, 1989). In art education, factors as affiliation, personal worth, security, accomplishment, and self-expression, might improve selfesteem (Cowan & Clover, 1991), which is a characteristic of the at-risk youth. The generation of critical thinking skills is another beneficial aspect of art education for atrisk students. Students can develop the capacity to logically evaluate ideas (theirs and others’). They can also be encouraged to produce idealism and expectation for social change (Piaget, 1952). Considering that LGBTQ students can be beneficiated in many ways by learning art and self-expression, the necessity of specialized art programs is increased. The creation of these programs has been implemented for some educators, like Sibyl O’thearling, who created a visual art program for at-risk youth in East Carolina University, with specific objectives to increasing self-esteem (Bickley-Green, 1996). The program demonstrated to be beneficial. However, this program was directed to at-risk people, not to LGBTQ students, which might not have included specific approaches needed to be treated to this specific target. From the experience of self-expression, many other effects derive, as the acknowledgement of oneself and finding our own identity, and the support in the process of self-acceptance. This searching for identity and self-acceptance are part of the life of everyone and is increased in the lives of LGBTQ people. In a study of LGBT art educators and artists, Darden Bradshaw say, “In high school, I was struggled with questions of identity. Who was I? What did I want to do with my life? What was important to me?... I was unsure what I wanted to ‘become’ and do with my life.” After her experience in an art class in college, she says “I discovered a way to express myself that was personal but didn’t require telling someone else what my most secret places held” (Lampela, 2003). Many other people have been beneficiated by the power of selfexpression and self-inquiry. The creation of programs directly aimed to help LGBTQ students, and to follow the example of institutions like the Harvey Milk High School and many others, become necessary if we want to develop a better and united society.
LGBTQ ISSUES IN ART EDUCATION The need of art education for including the study and inclusion of LGBTQ issues in its programs and curricula has been aware by many institutions, organizations, educators, and researchers. The National Society for Art and Design in collaboration with Schools Out held special events in 2007 to celebrate the presence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual/transgender contributions to art and design education in Britain and
internationally (Stanley, 2007a). One of the issues treated in the events was the need for fighting unreflective heterosexism and the many assumptions it derives and that are made in art education. One of these assumptions is the concept of the heterosexual family structure and its preponderance over any other structure conceived as privileged by society. These and other issues affect every age of education, from primary education to higher. Issues also exposed were: the silent presence of LGBTQ art, and hostility and bullying, generated by a heterosexual normative environment in education. All these approaches aimed to engage people in an effort to change this culture. This change in vision was encouraged to be taken in any discipline beyond art and design education, including science and mathematics. However, it has been recognized the importance of art education as a way to help students express themselves, and find personal identity. These arguments need further research and a curriculum reform is necessary, not just in order to add new elements derived from LGBT experience and action, but also to include a repudiation of assumptions from a heterosexual perception of society (Stanley, 2007a).
LGBT CONTRIBUTIONS TO ART EDUCATION Stanley also addresses the approaches many authors have taken to: the contribution that lesbian and gay individuals make to the development of the discipline and the several significant issues LGBT teachers and students have to face in education; the importance of the particular features in LGBT growing up experience in education; and the use by many educators of the concept of civil rights to generate an equality programme (Stanley, 2007b). There are four main qualities that LGBT individuals give to the field of art education. The first is the creative and comparative perspective LGBT people can provide from their experiences in the process of identity formation, which is different from the one of most of young people. This difference stems from their outside view of their heteronormative culture (Stanley, 2007b). The second quality is the irony, a sensibility related to marginality. Stanley sees irony as an aspect of parody, in which dominant values and those who hold them are repudiated. So called â€˜campâ€™ theories and concepts from LGBT people have deprived of significance. Instead, in contemporary gay theory, irony is seen as a tool to fight heteronormative assumptions. Irony in the arts undertake this task in many areas like writing, acting, visual arts and cinema (Stanley 2007b), expressing a critical opinion of society. The third quality refers to the proximity of LGBT agenda to a new view of feminist art history. As well, the approach to LGBT artistic contributions in history needs to be reconsidered in order to fill some gaps in understanding our past. Gay and lesbian art is growingly considered as relevant in art history from some years before because of its potential to change concepts of sexual identity.
In general, Stanley remembers that the participation of LGBT artists, educators, and students in and socio-political events must be celebrated. All these contributions are part of the efforts of many artists, like Wolfgang Tillman and Bea Campbell, who belong to a ‘generation that made our lives liveable and lovable. They remind us that LGBT people bring gifts, talents, and perspectives derived from our lives and, at some point, from that special marginality within it. It has been argued that ‘sexual diversity’ has an important meaning in social reconstructionist multicultural art education. This meaning has been hidden in the continuous process of transformation and redefinition of culture (Desai, 2003).
LESBIAN AND GAY ARTISTS IN THE ART CLASSROOM Some researchers and art educators are making efforts to create change in curricula to include information about the art and lives of gay and lesbian artists. That is the case of Laurel Lampela who has worked in a research combining this topic with the practicalities of art education. As practicalities of art education we can mention: characteristic of adolescents, curriculum planning, assessment strategies, national and state standards for art, curriculum content, and classroom management (Lampela 2005). Lampela shares her awareness on how important is to discuss the sexual identity of and artist to better understand the artist’s artwork. It also can provide the students in an art classroom with an open and accepting classroom atmosphere. She, as an art-teaching instructor, encourages her students to make their classrooms open and safe environments for all learners, including lesbian and gay students. The reasons to focus on the art of gay and lesbian artists are many. Lampela, in her study about the knowledge of art teachers in the National Art Education association (NAEA) about lesbian and gay artists in their curricula (Lampela, 2001) discovered that even when some teachers were interested in the art of gay and lesbian artists, they used to hide these artists’ sexual orientations. They found this important aspect of the artist’s life irrelevant for the understanding of their art. In other cases, teachers include the artist’s sexual identity in order to understand of the work, but theses teachers lack information about the artist and how to incorporate this information into their curricula (Lampela, 2005). THE LAMPELA’S LESSON After this, Lampela implemented a lesson with the objective to incorporate work by lesbian and gay artists in the curriculum. This lesson included the following parts: 1. The projection of transparencies including the work of eight gay and lesbian artists. 2. A critical dialogue about the works with a help of a list of questions. These questions were inspired by the lessons included in the book of Cahan and Kocur (1996) about contemporary and multicultural education. 3. The description by every of the students about what they saw in the artworks.
4. The description of differences and similarities in the works and personal information of the artists. 5. Lampela provided her students with an “Artist Profile Handout” with additional information about the artists. 6. The second part of the project included an inspiring session to help students find the way they identify themselves. This included the creation of artwork that mapped their identities. This mapping identity idea was adapted from another project developed by Congdon, Stewart, and White (2002) (Lampela, 2005). The first handout they received was a model for the students to create an identity map and their own lesson handouts. 7. The first item in the handout directed students to find a work art that resembled who they are from a group of images presented. Then they described themselves by finishing the phrase “I am…” 8. Next, students used words and symbols to describe: what others see when they looked at them, what others do not see when they looked at them, and the most important thin in their lives at that time. These activities led the students to diagram the map of their identities. Some created selfportraits, non-realistic interpretations of themselves. The closure was the exposition of these works in the classroom gallery. These project, and others of the same nature, highlight the importance of the discussion about sexual identities in a realistic way in the classroom. In addition, it is clear that the sexual identity of an artist is essential for the understanding of his or her work. Although the objectives and results are admirable, this project is not intended to help LGBTQA students through the self-expression of art.
TEACHING ART FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE ________________________________________________________________________
FROM AN EXPERT: AN INTERVIEW WITH TC TOLBERT Tc Tolbert is the creator of the Made for Flight project. An interview with him was conducted to have a closer view to a project that is specially directed to teach art to the LBTQA community. Tc Tolbert identifies him/herself as transgender, gender queer, queer, and poet, has plans to teach composition at the University of Arizona, is actually teaching at Pima Community College, teaches in the summers in many areas, is a writer, and teaches creative writing. S/he earned his MFA in Poetry from U of A. TC began volunteering with Eon Youth Program8 in 2004 and worked as full-time staff from 2005-2007. TC is the Assistant Director of Casa Libre en la Solana and is a member of Movement Salon, a compositional improvisation group in Tucson. S/he is a collective member of Read Between the Bars, a books-to-prisoners program, and s/he spends his summers leading wilderness trips for Outward Bound (taken from http://tigercakes74.blogspot.com/). THE CONCEPT OF MADE FOR FLIGHT Made for Flight created a space specifically for youth voice during the preparation for, and the implementation of, Tucsonâ€™s Tenth Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2010), culminating with a public display of hand-made kites that celebrate the lives of murdered Transgender individuals and a youth literary reading at UA. Workshops were ongoing and open to trans and allied youth. During each workshop, participants learned a bit of transgender history, shared personal stories, learned about our transgender sisters and brothers who have been murdered in the previous year, and built kites to commemorate their lives. Before created Made for Flight, Tolbert had been going through the awareness of the numbers of murders of transgender people every year by the Day of Remembrance. This remembrance is sad and has a somber vision. The point of the day is to remember and acknowledge all the transgender people who have been murdered in the last year. Tolbert noticed the experience was traumatizing for transgender people and allies who participated in the event. People used to think this might be their future: this horrible death. They needed more people to support them. Tolbert created Made for Flight because he wanted to remember their deaths, but also to uplift them and celebrate their lives instead of making the event so heavy, the kite idea 8
As part of Wingspan projects, Eon works to strengthen the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and straight ally youth community by creating social opportunities, providing information and support on health issues, advocating for youth rights, and challenging society's perceptions of youth. (http://www.wingspan.org/content/WYP.php)
came from that. This idea had to have the objective to involve youth and other allies. He thought he could do these workshops around town and different youth locations, and really teaches them about transgender issues and talk about that wild world. They could decorate these kites making them beautiful, and transform the grieve into something that is transcendent and beautiful. He had worked in Wingspan and LGBTQ affairs for several years, and something that always stroked him about the youth there is how resilient they are. “How many times they’re sort of kicked around and they just bring back, and that is how I really think of the transgender community, we raise up,” relates Tolbert. Randomly someone told him about a grant opportunity, a week before the deadline. He put all the ideas together and wrote the proposal. They funded it and paid for all of the materials. The project was implemented in many city high schools, Eon, and others, with great results. THE PROCESS OF THE WORKSHOP Tolbert did several 2-hour workshops, he pre-made the body of the kites, 4 or 5 kites per workshop, each kite has designated a murder. These are the stages of the workshops: 1. Educational Stage: They talked about transgender identities, issues. It was an educational stage. 2. Writing Stage: They went to the blank kites, read about the people and their murders. They discussed about them, and he encouraged them to write poems as responses to what they were reading and feeling. He introduced them three different kinds of poems and some examples of them, to make participants related to the poetry writing. And “they totally did it.” They had 15 minutes to write a poem, some of the participants claimed “I can’t write a poem in 15 minutes!” to which Tolbert said “start writing!” As a result of the participants’ emotional reactions to seeing these deaths, they wanted to say something. Tolbert showed that these forms of poems could help them transform what they wanted to say into new forms. This provided them with a space to pour their creativity in, “and so, crazy stuff came up, beautiful poems.” As teachers, we want to engage people in all the different running styles, visually, verbally, morally, etc. He tried to find all the ways in which people can be engaged. He worked hard to find different ways of expression. Some people wanted to write the poem but did not want to read it loud. They did not even have to give it in. That came from every one. The poems could be anonymous and actually many were so. It was a relaxing experience in which there was no pressure. 3. Decorative Stage: After that, they had to decorate their kites. They did not have any limitation. Tolbert brought in some pictures, as references from nature, like plants and
animals that are really diverse and have roles from female to male. Like in the seahorses where is the male who is pregnant, plants that self-pollinate, etc. These images were just for reference, their function was just to tell them that diversity is present in nature, they did not have to put them in the kites. This was exactly what they needed: “I just said, here’s the kite, here’s a bunch of paint, so, go! It was a beautiful process to see these empty kites become this living memorial for a person, it was so cool” expresses Tolbert. 4. Communicative Stage: There was a closure of the workshops at the Catalina Park in which the participants showed the kites, practiced a vigil, and walk in a procession through 4th avenue in the night for everyone to see it, to see the celebrating and the resiliency of the trans community. They also participated in the All Souls Procession in which 60 allied and transgender people helped them. That was Tolbert’s dream, involving others, and generate people’s emotions. Some people would say: “this is ‘wrong’, lets fight for it” and joined the procession. The responses from the participants were really positive, “they were totally into it,” remembers Tolbert. Many of them were shocked by how brutally transgender people are murdered. They dislike those acts. The mood in the workshops was not easy to handled. Tolbert started saying that it was a serious topic, that they were dealing with a really heavy subject, and that they had to realize “we were still alive.” It was going to be hard, they had to work towards the result of celebrating life, and recognizing that what these murders tried to do is to silence transgender people, and to make us think they should not be visible. They had to fight this. The writing stage of the workshop had the objective of getting that sadness out. OTHER PROJECTS OF THIS TYPE Beyond the projects mentioned by Jennifer Hoefle in her interview, it was hard for Tolbert to think about any other projects in which art and LGBTQA issues are related. He mentioned his awareness of the necessity for creating more, and the importance art has in expressing feelings. He says, “art is the opposite of co-modifications, to create art is to say I’m an individual.” DIFFERENCE IN TEACHING LGBTQA PEOPLE The main difference between teaching to regular classes and teaching especially to LGBTQ people is that his ‘outed’ sexual orientation makes it much trickier. He says “It becomes politicized, it might be a problem for some people, it may make them feel unsafe because I’m out and I’m their teacher. I am in the position of power, and those kinds of issues come up. It becomes a political statement for me to come out, which is fine for me, I just think it impacts the classroom.” “In the other side, with LGBTQA people, the assumption is that we have sometimes a shared understanding or shared experience; that we have a connection. I do not know if it is fair to say that just because we are gay we have a shared experience. It is like
mmm…maybe, but that is one thing that we know we are probably not going to hate each other for,” says Tolbert. He adds, “The identities of everyone in the classroom cannot be taken for granted. I think that is why having LGBTQA specific projects is so important, because that basic thing of our identity cannot be taken for granted anywhere else. It’s important to have a space where you walk in there and you are either gay or ally, not is assumed.” POINTS TO TAKE IN ACCOUNT WHEN WORKING WITH/FOR LGBTQ PEOPLE: The points to take in account when working with/for LGBTQ communities expressed by Tolbert, were similar to those by Hoefle: “It’s important to still talk about and being really open about our differences, in terms of class, gender expression, race, access, ability, and all those things. We can think that is because I am gay and you are gay then we are on the same page, we are not. There is just one area in which we might be on the same page. I think that social justice is much bigger than ‘queerness’. Queerness is a part of social justice, so we have to have a social justice conversation in our queerness conversation.” WHAT DO LGBTQA PEOPLE WANT TO SAY? In the experience of Tolbert, LGBTQ people have said: I’m here, look at me, I’m important, I’m valuable, my voice is important, I’m bigger than labels, I’m more than my sexual orientation, I’m more than my gender identity, I’m more than those things, but don’t forget those things -so don’t act like they are not a big deal either, cause they are…According to Tolbert, hey feel the excitement and empowerment of expressing our existence, that we exist and that’s ‘awesome’, instead of say ok I exist and I’m ashamed of it and I’ll be quiet, or, don’t notice me. DO LGBTQA PEOPLE NEED A DIFFERENT TREATMENT? Tolbert thinks: “we need to go away from tolerance, which is to say –Ok you’re gay, you’re over there and you’re weird-, to celebration.” He thinks our differences (in general) must be celebrated like something good. He adds, “we need to be excited about the things that make us different from one another and celebrate them, as opposed to shame or silence, it’s acceptance but far away acceptance” “There are some things that are so obvious to me, for example: gay marriage obviously must be legal…that’s not a question…we have to pass all that.” VIEWS ON COMING OUT OF THE CLOSET “If you can safely come out you should, and, if it’s unsafe, or if you are going to be at risk by coming out, it’s a bad idea.” Coming out happens over and over in every moment of our lives. It would be unfair to say that everyone has to come out, it depends on everyone’s specific situation, and the issue of safety must be considered.
SOME LGBTQ ARTISTS ________________________________________________________________________ From the experiences of projects like Lampela’s, we can say that the use of the artwork from LGBTQ artists could become extremely important in an art education project specifically directed for LGBTQ people. This use could exemplify how the selfexpression in arts has been used by LGBTQ people and also could help in the objectives of increasing self-esteem, self-exploration, and self-confidence. The importance of the presence of gay artists has been noticed through history, even when this has not been much spoken out. In the mid-twentieth century, gay figures created much of modern American Culture, the sounds of Aaron Coplan’s Appalachian Spring, the words of Stanley and Blanche in Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire, the songs and dances of West Side Story Sherry, 2007). In many fields of art and communications, the gay figure was present to take part of the creation of History. Because of this, some gay and lesbian artists have been reviewed in this project. By this, we could learn the aspects of their lives, as non-heterosexuals, that have influenced in their works, the ways they expressed their sexuality, and some effects they might have caused in their times.
KEITH HARING He was an internationally recognized artist who was born in Pennsylvania. After his studies in New York City in the School of Visual Arts (SVA), Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways, and spaces in clubs and former dance halls. He became part of the energy and spirit of this scene and began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and other alternative venues. In 1980, Haring found a highly effective medium that allowed him to communicate with the wider audience he desired, when he noticed the unused advertising panels covered with matte black paper in a subway station. He began to create drawings in white chalk upon these blank paper panels throughout the subway system. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings in rapid rhythmic lines, sometimes creating as many as forty “subway drawings” in one day. This seamless flow of images became familiar to New York commuters, who often would stop to engage the artist when they encountered him at work. He made simple, powerful and distinctive figures: crawling babies, dogs, flying saucers and the like, that were cartoonlike, reflecting his earliest influences, which included Walt Disney and his father, an engineer whose hobby was cartooning. The subway became, as Haring said, a “laboratory” for working out his ideas and experimenting with his simple lines. In 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop, a retail store selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons, and magnets bearing his images. Haring was committed to his desire to make his
artwork available to as wide an audience as possible, and received strong support for this project from friends, fans, and mentors including Andy Warhol (www.haring.com). Haring was openly gay, and he used his art to benefit gay causes. Since the AIDS epidemic began, he was an advocate of safe sex, and the disease that took the lives of some of his close friends was an inspiration in his work. In 1987, Haring himself was tested HIV positive, and he developed Kaposi's sarcoma, a form of cancer that often accompanies AIDS. While this illness was fatal to him, it never slowed Haring down at all (Sheff, 1989)9.
PETER FLINSCH He is a German artist who is settled in Canada. He has earned the reputation from experts as one of the greatest erotic artists of the 20th century. He lived his young homosexuality in the Nazi Germany of the 40’s when being homosexual was a crime. He was forced to work as a Nazi officer in a work camp where was forced to announce that he was gay to his fellow prisoners every morning (Hays, 2008). “Through his art, Peter pulls back the curtain and take us into the intimacy of male lives which artists would begin to explore greater numbers only later.” This comment encloses the fact that Flinsch was a revolutionary in the gay art. His work is defined as striking. At the time that many gay artists were masking their sexual orientation, Flinsch was fearlessly erotic in the treatment of the male form. Flinsch has attributed this to his sensibility to his experience in the Nazi work camp. “Basically, I was outed at the age of 22, but from then on I felt free about my sexual orientation. It turned me into a strong person who knows who I am and what I stand for. Yes, it traumatized me, but it did so in a way that didn’t break me, it made me” (Higgins, 2008). Though his work is mainly homoerotism, he studied many styles of art. He used the extreme hypermasculinity in some of his pieces. His techniques moved from pastels, ink and pen, to an even freer brush. His work “mirrors the evolution of the gay liberation movement, from imprisonment under a fascist criminal code to free artistic expression in a country that recognizes full equality for gay people under the law” (Hays, 2008).
MONICA MAJOLI She is an artist who lives in Los Angeles with a long career since 1992. Her paintings of back-room gay male s/m sex occupy a troubling space and raise problematic issues in relation to lesbian art. Why is a lesbian painting gay male sex scenes? Who wants to look at them? Are these paintings lesbian just because the artist is lesbian? (Hammond, 2000). Her paintings have a high level of pornographic matter, they are traditional paintings with a “Northern Renaissance chiaroscuro lighting” that has almost a religious character. Based on photographs and reproductions of old master paintings rather than life, the 9
Source: Interview by David Sheff, Keith Haring, An Intimate Conversation, Rolling Stone, August 10, 1989. (http://www.haring.com/archives/interviews/index.html).
figures feel posed, stiff, awkward, and strangely feminized. Consequently, the sexual acts represented feel restrained and self-conscious (Hammnond, 200). The artists says that these pieces come from stories and descriptions from a gay friend about sexual activities at the gay male bathhouses, but she did not know why she was so interested in them. It was maybe the desire to explore her own sexual desires and fantasies. Majoli claims that at the beginning she was “thinking religious” not sexually. Using the gay male body as an element for eroticism, she combined the not so explicit sexuality of historical religious paintings and that of her own fantasies. Eventually, Majoli started to paint scenes of women in the privacy of their cluttered bedrooms. Based on real events and moments in her life, she sees them as “memorials” of love. Her work has been defined as transgressive representations of lesbian sexual activities or fantasies, transgressive because the women are engaged in sexual activities found in pornography not I n fine arts. In 1992, she depicted two women; one using a dildo and the other sucking it, that dildo was the only point of physical contact, except in a mirror reflection. But the most erotic painting of Majoli does not illustrate any sexual activity. It is simply a small obsessively rendered realistic painting of the back of a neck, a “fragment of the body so exposed you feel you could breathe on it and in doing so feel the breath of another down your spine” (Hammond, 200).
SOME LGBTQA ARTISTS, NOW The study of some famous gay and lesbian artists and their performance in their own his time and social situation tells us that their artwork has been influenced by personal and social situations. LGBTQ art is in constant change in relation to style and topics through time. This has lead this project to the inquiry of what actual LGBTQA artists are doing in their artwork with respect to their personal and social influences in our time. With this objective, it has been created a small research through a virtual social network (Facebook) in which a survey was implemented to LGBTQA artists of our days. A group10 in Facebook was created in order to gather LGBTQA artists from many branches and backgrounds. Facebook was chosen by many reasons: (a) it is free and easy to manage, (b) groups can be set on private to generate confidentiality, (c) its friendly character might provide a free and honest collaboration from the participants, (d) its online factor provides practicality in relation to location, schedules, and data storage. The group was set as ‘private’ to provide confidentiality to the members. At the moment, the group has 59 members. The questionnaires were distributed through the ‘wall’ of the group and by its messaging system. Every participant collaborated willingly and his or her personal information remains confidential. It has to be mentioned that all of the participants who answered the questions agreed to be included (verbally and visually) in the project without problems.
To see the group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_138101029572078&ap=1, or search for it in Facebook (www.facebook.com), by the name LGBTQ Artists.
ANALYISIS OF QUESTIONARIES DEMOGRAPHICS: Total: 19 participants responded the questionnaire. Gender: The respondents were 9 females and 10 males. Sexual orientation: These facts are based on the own responses of the participants and not on personal perceptions. They responded to be classified in the followings: 1 Lesbian, 5 Gay, 2 Bisexual, 2 Transgender, 0 Questioning, 2 Allies, 2 homosexual, 1 homosexual or gay, and 4 did not identify themselves with any of the letters of the acronym or did not give an answer. Nationality: The nationalities of the participants who responded the questionnaires are divided in this way: 13 Salvadorians, 2 Americans, 2 Costa Ricans, 1 Spanish, and 1 Nicaraguan. Residency: Some participants reside in a different country from their birth country. These are: 11 El Salvador, 4 United States, 2 Costa Rica, 1 Spain, and 1 Nicaragua. Ages: The ages of the participants ranged from 19 to 34 years old. It is necessary to clarify that some participants did not share their ages. Professions or fields of action: These are the different fields in which our participants work or act: 7 work in graphic arts or design; 6 in writing, poetry, or literature; 4 in art education or teaching; 4 in photography; 4 in painting and/or drawing; 4 in dance and/or scenic arts, 4 in media or communications; 2 in films or audiovisuals; 2 in object art and design; and 1 in architecture. Most of the participants had participations in more than one field. In the group, we have not just included visual artists, because the objective of the group is not just how visual LGBTQA artists express themselves, but how LGBTQA artists in general do so. QUESTIONS: The questions in the small survey were based on the objectives of the research and some inputs generated from the interaction with the members of the group weeks before the questionnaires were sent. These were the questions distributed to the participants: 1. Which areas of the arts do you work in? What kinds of art works do you make or participate? 2. Why are you involved in the arts? 3. Do you know what the term LGBTQA means? If you do know what it means, what do you think about this concept? 4. What are the most recurrent or main themes included in your artwork? 5. Do you express your own sexuality through your artwork? If so, why do you chose to do so and how do you express it? If not, why not? 24
FINDINGS AND COMMENTS: From the organization, classification, and analysis of the participants’ responses, it has been found that we can divide these LGBTQA artists in many groups. For a better understanding of the results, they have been chosen to form part of these groups according to the following criteria: (A) by their personal reasons to make art; (B) by the themes or topics they chose in their artwork, (C) by their relation with the concept of LGBTQA, and (D) by their willing to express their sexual orientation and/or sexuality through the art. A. THEIR PERSONAL REASONS TO MAKE ART: When the participants were asked about their reasons to make art, their responses were classified in eight groups: 8 gave responses related to the expressiveness, 7 to ‘oneself’, 6 to a natural necessity, 5 to social change, 3 to the affinity to the arts, 3 to the need for reflection, 2 to the need for remembering, and others. All of the participants gave more than one response. According to these, our artists have been classified in these types: 1. The expression searcher: Uses the arts to express messages; to say things that are not allowed in other ways; to communicate with others; or to say things in an easier and different way. 2. The inner thinkers: Use art related to themselves, to express themselves, to interpret themselves, to explain things to themselves, regardless of others’ attention. Sometimes, art is used in the searching for self-acceptance. 3. The social aware: Uses art because of its ability to promote change; to better society; and its power to passionate people to interact with their community. 4. The matcher: Involved in the arts by affinity, likeliness, and/or because it is what best fits with his or her personality and self. It engages him or her. 5. The deep thinker: Uses art as reflection before talking, in order to explain things (to themselves or others). 6. The naturalists: Claim that art is a human and personal necessity, and that is why they make art. Some of them argue that art is a natural part of everybody and that can be developed in all of us. Art is described as an impromptu or a personal search for self-acceptance. 7. The forgetful: Uses art to remember things or events. Most of these events are considered important. Some of these artists cannot trust in their own memory.
8. Other reasons: Among other interesting reasons why these LGBTQA people make art, there were: vocation, profession, creation, and for fun (as one participant said, “to laugh at what happens to me”). B. THEIR THEMES OR TOPICS THEY CHOOSE IN THEIR ARTWORK: The participants’ responses about what they expressed through their artwork were many and varied. By similarity in objectives and concepts these have been classified as follows: 7 people use issues related to the identity and/or sexual orientation, 7 use social issues, 5 love issues, 4 change their topics frequently, 3 search for the reasons of things, 3 use sexuality, and others. Based on these, our LGBTQA artists can be grouped in this way: 1. The gender builder Has as main topics, the change, and the transformation, commonly from a transgender view. In their artwork, gay issues, masculinity, and femininity are included. 2. The social reformer Critics and analyzes their society, searches for freedom and fights discrimination and inequality. He or she has a revolutionary vision, looks for a harmonious multiculturalism. Some tries to find social acceptance. In addition, in his o her struggle for changing society makes alternative realities up. 3. The love prospector Expresses the lack of and need for love. He or she uses references to forbidden loves, knows that love is hard to find in his or her environment. Therefore, he or she expresses solitude, sometimes in gray or dark moods. 4. The switcher Uses different topics for his or her artwork, has a fluid thematic; can say “everything on everything” (Peque). In some cases, this changing situation comes from professional motives. 5. The existentialist Looks for the reason of the things and searches for meanings. And questions his or her existence as in ‘to be or not to be’. 6. The sexualist Handles the sexuality in many ways, has no fear to explore the homoerotism, and experiment with nudity. 7. Others: Among other topics, we could find: emotions, ecology, death, family, dualities, urban life, personal events and experiences, dignity, and nothing (silence).
C. THEIR RELATION WITH THE LGBTQA CONCEPT: About their knowledge of the term: From the 19 participants, 14 said they were familiarized with the acronym LGBTQA. From those, 4 were against its use and philosophy (opposers), 4 were in favor (supporters), and 6 showed some doubt about their acceptance towards it. As well, 1 participant did not know the term very well at the moment of answering the questions, and showed disapproval to it. This could be a very particular case due to she is a Spanish artist. It could show us the influence that the participant’s cultural background has in her perception of the term. She herself says that “maybe if I were in America, where many taboos need to be broken, things would be different.” That teaches us that people from different cultures and societies generate different thoughts and require different approaches to the topic, even if they are LGBTQA by general, not personal, definition. 4 participants relatively knew the term, but were not aware of the inclusion of the letters Q and A, and neither did they know their meanings. From these, only one was in favor, and the rest showed ambiguous and/or willing to accept it. From the analysis of what these artists think about the meaning and philosophy of the LGBTQA concept and organizations, in contrast with their knowledge of it, we can say that knowing it is not necessarily supporting it, as many people might have thought (including me). Although, this knowledge promotes awareness and analysis on the situation of LGBTQA people and on how they want to be perceived and treated by society. In any case, this thinking may not be erroneous or prejudicial, instead, it could be beneficial from the point of view that, the more we analyze it, the more we will understand it. About their perception of the term: From another view, we could divide the participants’ responses by their level of support or rejection to the term LGBTQA. This led us to divide them in these groups: 1. The supporters: 5 participants were shown in favor to the concept LGBTQA. These artists like the LGBTQA community and feel a connection with it. They understand the work of LGBTQA organizations as a social necessity. They defend their rights. Some of them may feel a double perception of the “labeling” part of the concept: they think labels might be restricting at some times but comforting at others. They find the term inclusive although long. Even when some of them do not know the meanings of all of the letters of the acronym (the Q and the A are not very known), they feel empathy with its cause. 2. The opposers: 5 participants showed their opinions against the concept, especially against its ‘labeling’ characteristic. These artists do not believe in labels. The think the human beings and their sexuality are too broad to be classified. Some refused to be cataloged in any of the letters
of the acronym. Others knew and recognized that they fit in some category, but were not comfortable with the idea of doing so. Most of the opposers (4) were familiar with the acronym in some way. To the one remaining, the term was new, but it conflicted with her personal ideology and said, “I do not think it is so important to define the differences, but to educate the respect…” 3. The ambiguous and/or friendly: 2 people declared ambiguous or in doubt about what they felt on the meaning of the concept. This could be because of the need of personal connection in order to support the cause; we can see that, when the first participant argues “I can be Ally, yours, because I know you, but of everyone, I would need to know them first and I will let you know.” The second one might support the cause “just to feel part of something,” which did not denote so much enthusiasm. Nevertheless, for 5 people the idea was not unpleasant and showed signs of friendliness towards it. Some of them claimed that they did not agree with ‘labeling people’ but understood the mission of fighting discrimination and the searching for an equalitarian treatment. D) THEIR DISPOSITION TO EXPRESS THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND/OR SEXUALITY THROUGH THE ART: The participants were asked if they were willing to express their own sexuality through their work. We received 3 answers: yes, no, and not yet. 13 people responded that they express or have expressed their sexuality or sexual orientation through art, 5 people said no, and 1 said she had never done before but was interested on doing so in the future. According to their explanations and reasons, they have been classified in these categories: PEOPLE WHO SAID YES: 1. The unexpectant: (5 people) Does express their sexuality unintentionally, when it comes naturally, it only appears. This is not necessarily a constant or regular topic in their work but sporadic. For others, although not explicit, becomes a cause of their art. 5 participants were grouped in here. 2. The expresser: (3 people) Expresses his or her sexuality because finds in the arts the best way to do it, or at least one of the ways. Art can give them the media to express it like anybody else, sometimes even as a secret, and sometimes, their sexuality “permeates” their entire work. They send a message through their sexuality, which can become explicit and direct. 3. The uninhibited: Expresses his sexuality or sexual orientation openly, and fearlessly, as in a natural way. However, the participants in this group made a difference on the terms: sexuality, sexual orientation, and sex activity. Someone might express their sexuality but not their sexual
orientation; others express their sexual orientation but not necessarily their sex activity. Another participant said that he expresses his personal identity, which might or might not include his sexual orientation. Note: One participant has been classified in both the uninhibited and the expresser groups since he finds art as a way to express his sexuality, but makes a difference when he says that he does not necessarily express the sex act. PEOPLE WHO SAID NO: 4. The avoider: (5 people) Does not use his or her sexuality as topic for their artwork. The reasons for this are varied. We had five types of avoiders in our study; the first finds that using her sexuality as a theme would be limit herself (the expander); the second did not express sexuality in a personal way but universally (the universal sexualist); the third said that he preferred to express his personality more than his sexuality (the personalizer); the fourth stop herself to express it by fear to generate differences (the cautious). PEOPLE WHO SAID NOT YET: 5. The hopeful: (1 person) The one who has never included her sexual orientation or sex activity in her artwork but has thought about it and expects to do it in the future. A booklet has been created in which our participants have been classified in these categories. It also shows a series of artworks from some of the artists:
Look at this booklet at this address: http://issuu.com/pedrosorto/docs/book/32
CONCLUSIONS ________________________________________________________________________ 1. When working with LGBTQA people, whether assessing or teaching, many points must be taken in account. Among those are: the plurality and diversity inside the LGBTQA communities, the inclusion of social justice, the different levels of exposure of the participants and confidentiality needs, and the differences and maturity and expertise participants might have. 2. The power of self-expression attached to the production of art becomes a powerful tool when taught to LGBTQA people. Considering LBGTQ youth as at-risk youth, this tool has the characteristics of improving self-esteem; increasing self-confidence, and helps to define identities, actions needed by this social group. 3. The field of art education is becoming aware of the necessity for the inclusion of LGBTQ issues in its activities. Many researchers have studied some of these issues. Even when studies have been made in relation to the contributions LGBTQ artists, teachers and students make to art education, just a few projects relating self-expression for LGBTQA people have been made. The creation of more projects of this type might be necessary from the social improving view of art education. 4. Teaching art for self-expression becomes important to LGBTQA people because of their need for social recognition and an equalitarian treatment. It has been experienced that the LGBTQA communities have much to express and communicate, and art can be a perfect way to do so. 5. By studying the work and trajectory of LGBTQ artists through History, many of them have been excluded as important characters. However, this is starting to change. LGBTQ artists has demonstrated that their artwork can be a critical reflection of their time and society, and that as societies change, so does their art production. 6. Although the reasons why actual LGBTQA artists make art change invariably, these possible reasons can be resumed in some categories: by the need for expression, selfawareness and self-reflection, by a natural impulse and affinity, and as a way of remembrance and recognition. 7. The topics actual LGBTQA artists might include in their artwork vary from: gender and identities, through love, social criticism, and existentialism, to sex, sexualism and erotism. 8. LGBTQA art travels from and to several topics. This is contraire to some periods in which eroticism had predominance in this art. Although sexuality is still a recurrent topic, even unconsciously, LGBTQA artists may or may not express their sexual identity in their work.
VISUAL REPRESENTATIONS OF CONCLUSIONS ________________________________________________________________________ As part of the conclusions in this project, three artistic pieces were generated from the view of the author. The concepts for these pieces were taken from the findings in the survey and reflections on this stage of the research. The classification of LGBTQ artists described after the analysis of the survey has been seen as important not just for the this project but also for our understanding of LGBTQA art in general. Three of these categories were taken as inspiration for the pieces, by their relevance, novelty, and eyeopening power: the gender builder, the social reformer, and the expression searcher. The process of creation of the pieces started with the analysis of the survey. From this, we could extract as an important characteristic, that might be included in a possible workshop for further stages in the research, the concept of Opening Eyes. In this stage, it has been encountered that some Educational objectives in the project could be: to generate awareness about LGBTQA issues and reality, clarify myths and doubts, and inform about resources. All of these conjugated in the phrase: Opening eyes. STEP 1 As first step in this creative process, the participants and interviewees in the research were asked to send photos of their eyes open and closed in order to generate a collection of possible photos to use. These are some of the photos obtained in this first step:
STEP 2 As a second step, it was a compilation of images11 related to the three concepts chosen in order to generate compositions according to every one. Topics used to find the images were: society, gender, education, childhood, toys, construction, building, sexuality, nudity, communications, connections, world, web, and expression. This was part of the compilation created:
Images taken from: http://www.everystockphoto.com/ , a search engine for free photos.
STEP 3 From the two groups of photos, a combination of images was created into four compositions, one for some of the categories for the LGBTQA Artists. The first is the gender builder, who supports the change, and the transformation, commonly from a transgender view. The genders created and accepted by society and that are taught to all of us in our childhood have been discovered to not be the only ones. The human beings and our sexuality are broader that our society might have thought. We need to be prepared to include these new modalities, which, at the end, are not so new. The gender builder does not try to build new genders, because they have been there since forever, he/she tries to build in our minds the spaces required to accept them. The second, the social reformer, is a critic and analysis to our society; he/she searches for freedom and fights discrimination and inequality. He or she has a revolutionary vision, looks for a harmonious multiculturalism. In some point, it tries to find social acceptance. It builds new environments from the older that are built because it is the only way a social reformer knows. It loves them, does not try to destroy them but to reconstruct them with new lights. The third is the expression searcher, who tries to talk through as many ways as possible, using the new methods the new technology provides. He/she knows that the only way to be heard, after so many years of being shut up, is say it loud to the whole world. The fourth, and additional, is the unexpectant, who expresses his/her sexuality unintentionally, when it comes naturally, it only appears. This is not necessarily a constant in his/her life, but it is undeniably part of his/her being.12 12
A video of the construction of these images can be watch at this address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ya8MVYQK3I
The gender builder:
The social reformer:
The expression searcher:
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