International Journal of Art & Design Education

2007 - Volume 26: Number 1

Preface: 'Anything You Can Do': Proposals for Lesbian and Gay Art Education


Volume 26.1

This preface introduces the themes of this special edition: the contribution that lesbian and gay individuals make to the development of the discipline. These include a non-heteronormative perspective, and an emphasis on irony within parody. Second, this preface considers the experience of LGBT students and teachers dealing with sexuality within the school curriculum. Third, the current approach to civil rights within the school is considered especially in the context of homophobia, bullying and physical danger. Finally, areas of specific curriculum advance are noted particularly within art history, media education and teacher education.

Irving Berlin's witty little song 'Anything you can do' epitomises the taken-for-granted assumption that relationships between people are always adversarial and that personal achievement always involves outperforming the opponent. The song title in full runs 'Anything you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you.' The second stanza underlines the theme 'I'm superior, you're inferior, I'm the big attraction you're the small.' The rest of the song develops the theme but it constantly expands a tongue-in-cheek ironic infection. The lyrics serve to subtly undermine the master narrative by showing the ridiculousness of empty boastfulness. I suggest that there is a strong analogy between this adversarial parody and that between 'heteronormative' culture and its disdain for gay perspectives and experience. One of the major propositions in this collection is that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ('LGBT' throughout this volume) people bring great benefits to all in our efforts to explore and develop an increasingly inclusive art and design agenda.

My argument in this introduction has four interrelated themes. First, I outline what I think are the legitimate claims that LGBT people can make for their contribution to the development of the discipline. It is important to start here because, as will be come clear, there are several significant issues that LGBT teachers and students have to face in education. These issues should not distract us from the positive impact we have made throughout the art and design curriculum.

The second theme is one that I take from Andrew Sullivan's title Virtually Normal. The ambiguity built into his oxymoronic title is worth exploration. The LGBT experience of growing up has particular paradoxical features that are singular and significant. I consider some of these features for their salience to the general argument.

The third theme that is particularly pertinent internationally is what is termed a civil rights agenda. Many educators are using this concept as a basic building block in the construction of an equality programme into which LGBT fits as a significant beneficiary. It is in this context that the issue of bullying is considered. Undeniably, bullying is a major issue confronting probably every young LGBT person on a regular basis. But I, and other authors in the collection, argue that relying solely on this equal rights approach has some major drawbacks in the promotion of an LGBT agenda.

The fourth theme, which is developed by the authors of the papers throughout this volume, is that a specific LGBT art and design curriculum can be developed away from a civil rights approach. This curriculum can provide what we all lack currently, material that reflects and expands the learning of LGBT students, provides opportunities for Continuing Professional Development for LGBT and LGBT-friendly staff, and thus enriches the whole art and design curriculum by embracing new ideas from within and outside the discipline. At the moment there is a gaping empty space in the art and design curriculum that badly needs filling. I conclude this introduction by considering such innovation in relation to Swift and Steers' Manifesto for Art in Schools which still seems to me an excellent benchmark against which to measure change and progress.

Identity Politics and the Queering of Art Education: Inclusion and the Confessional Route to Salvation


Volume 26.1

In this article I discuss the relationship between theories of identity and making practices in secondary art and design. Of particular interest is the way students are invited to explore identities in relation to a sense of self and the extent to which this is informed by schools' concern to make diversity visible through multicultural celebration, thus framing and possibly limiting exploration. It is notable that non-heternormative sexual identities remain largely invisible in the official curriculum and I examine the disjunction between this absence and their hypervisibilty in the mass media and its culture of confession/exposure. I revisit Michel Foucault's discussion of the history of sexuality as a way to understand the development of confessional discourses in modern culture and to provide an alternative and ambivalent reading of the power relations implicit in work exploring identities by art and design students. Specifically, I look at the position of gay and lesbian students and teachers, and ask whether their sexuality can figure within the injunction 'explore your identity'. Given the heteronormative culture of schooling, I end by recommending that individuals should be wary of outing themselves in the name of self-expression but that art teachers could use strategies of distancing to engage students with issues of sexuality and join with others to counter homophobia by queering the curriculum.

Queering Art Teacher Education


Volume 26.1

This article sounds a call to action and addresses the challenges of creating inclusive, queer-affirming art teacher education curricula. We examine such challenges through case study vignettes of our varied US university settings and explore the perils of teaching in an increasingly queer-hostile culture. Strategies are given for avoiding attacks against LGBT-supportive pedagogy and championing the cause of social justice for queer students, parents, artists, teachers and faculty.

Photography in Pink Classrooms


Volume 26.1

The teaching of photography provides many opportunities to attack the assumption of universal heterosexuality, which is central to our society, in order to provide space for other sexualities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. This article is based on many years of lecturing in art schools and focuses on the classroom teaching of photography. It offers four perspectives for the expression of sexuality and possible change through the opening up of the curriculum to allow the inclusion of homosexual and queer art in the cultural capital of society; strategies to oppose heteronormativity; ways of treating students in the classroom in order to gain social justice in regard to sexual preference and finally the social benefits to all when heteronormativity is replaced with more equitable understandings, which could lead to a more inclusive community.

Sapphos to Baby Dykes: A Photo-Essay

AMELIA LEE and the young women of LIK:T

Volume 26.1

The LIK:T Young lesbian and Bisexual Women's Project have done a substantial piece of work looking at role models and aspirations of young lesbians and bisexual women through art.

The aim of the project was to try and break down isolation, and to raise the aspirations of young lesbian and bisexual (LB) women, as often as a group, LB women have a hidden history/herstory.

The work was done over a number of months, including a consultation event in Manchester with lesbian and bisexual women across the generations; a research trip to the Glasgow Women's Library (and their Lesbian Archive); and a number of pieces put together at other events around the country by our roving reporters/photographers.

The exhibit created includes six posters designed by the young women involved, and a photo collection of lesbian and bisexual women from across the generations, with accompanying interviews about their loves, lives and everything.

What to Collect? Museums and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Collecting


Volume 26.1

Although museum and galleries are under increasing pressure to reflect and explore culture diversity in their collections and public programming, this has largely been interpreted in terms of ethnicity. Issues of sexual orientation are largely ignored by these cultural institutions. This article explores both some of constraints facing museums and the strategies, ethical considerations and curatorial practices they might explore and adopt to reflect and document our rich LGBT histories and heritage in their collections, and to highlight these histories in mainstream and special exhibitions and public programming such as events, talks and conferences hosted by museums. This work should be guided by close partnerships with the LGBT communities such as advisory groups. These changes will not be achieved overnight, but if museums have the leadership of their institutional management and the support of their colleagues, a change agenda can be implemented progressively.

Lesbian Teachers Walking the Line between Inclusion and Exposure


Volume 26.1

In this article it is argued that the effects of an education system that normalises and perpetuates heterosexuality as natural, by positioning lesbian and gay teachers as the 'natural others', reduces attempts at equitable visibility through inclusive practice to marginalised silence. Manifestations of the pressure on lesbian and gay teachers to provide evidence of heterosexual credentials as forms of currency for social inclusion are explored through anecdote and artwork. The question of 'coming out' as a necessary part of inclusive pedagogy is challenged as the sole means through which heterosexist hegemony may be unsettled as attempts are made to achieve broader inclusiveness in formal institutions of learning.

The Warren Cup: Highlighting Hidden Histories


Volume 26.1

Contemporary artists and art galleries have been more active than museums in representing gay and lesbian culture in public spaces in recent decades. However same-sex relationships have a long history that is reflected in the collections of museums that have material from the classical world. The culture of ancient Greece and Rome was less inhibited about the representation of sexual acts than many nineteenth-century museums would have liked. Objects with frank images of sexual acts were discreetly censored or hidden away in secret cabinets. This article draws on one object as a case study, a Roman silver cup dated to the early years of the first century AD acquired by the British Museum in 1999. The cup is decorated with beautifully realised scenes in relief decoration which show two pairs of males engaged in love-making, each pair consisting of one older male and a youth. The object could never have been acquired or publicly displayed earlier in the twentieth century. The vessel known as the Warren Cup (after a previous owner) provides a provocative stimulus for debate about male-to-male lovemaking. Discussion of the meaning of the scenes, and the possible reasons why they were represented on such a high-status object, generates more questions than answers. This uncertainty contributes to the power of this object to open up debate. This article will raise questions for educators and students to consider about the Cup, an object which society has only recently ceased to regard as pornographic or obscene.

Young Queer Artists in the Classroom


Volume 26.1

This article describes what happened when two young queer artists, Danya Defraytus and Haroon Iltaf, presented their work in a classroom context. The responses from the pupils and the teachers are also reflected upon. These responses indicate something of the potential there is for work by lesbians and gay men to be utilised in classroom contexts. The presentations had various positive outcomes for the school. For example, the teachers involved noticed that Danya and Roonie's work had useful impact on the pupils' sense of how they might develop their own, distinct creative practices on the basis of their own unique experiences and perceptions. The students made connections with Danya and Roonie, and could identify with them, in a way that transcended any differences there may have been between them in terms of their sexuality. The approach is therefore being suggested as a model for introducing work that explores lesbian and gay experiences, in a meaningful, useful and amicable way, in a classroom context. The key elements that led to the success of the work are therefore outlined to indicate ways to apply such an approach.

Out There? Looking for Lesbians in British Art — Some Preliminary Observations


Volume 26.1

The article seeks to explore some of the difficulties that may be experienced within higher art education both by the student of art who is lesbian and by researchers focusing on the subject of lesbians and art. For those interested in this area of study there may be particular obstacles which are not present for heterosexual students and which act as a barrier to exclude more readily available information and images. The potential importance and relevance of these exclusions for the lesbian student of art are examined in relation to the political and social oppression which lesbians have experienced, the effects of which can be seen in both historical and contemporary lesbian images and artwork. The article also examines possible issues around 'coming-out' and homophobia for lesbian students and researchers within education generally, the prevalence of assumptions of heterosexuality, and the importance of awareness of these issues for educators of gay students. The conclusion drawn is that there is diversity inherent within any grouping but a more inclusive art education policy would inform the culture of all.

Media Literacy Art Education: Deconstructing Lesbian and Gay Stereotypes in the Media


Volume 26.1

Popular media such as films, television programmes/commercials and magazines have become the dominant source through which children learn about others and their world, develop attitudes and beliefs as manifested in media expressions, and formulate their sense of identity. Popular media have enormous influence on children who are constantly immersing themselves in value-laden media images that perpetuate over-generalised representations of cultural groups, in particular, lesbian and gay stereotypes. By critically examining media images in the art room, media literacy art education offers art teachers and their students an opportunity to nurture their aesthetic sensibilities, social awareness and the media literacy necessary to resist and challenge prejudiced, dehumanised or unjust social practices. This article explores issues of lesbian and gay stereotypes in the media, and proposes using media images as a pedagogical device to help students deconstruct them.

Derek Jarman: An Art Educator for Our Times?


Volume 26.1

Derek Jarman found his life's purpose in art. His significance for art educators today is his combination of low technology film-making and his painterly vision. He provides a model for us today, in his incorporation of images from daily life into a series of vivid tableaux. Jarman created a huge database of images from which he constantly drew for both paintings and films. He was always writing down ideas and making drawings into a series of sketchbooks which provided him with the raw materials for his artistic products. Jarman's significance for this publication was that he united all aspects of his life into an aesthetic adventure. This included finding a signature as a gay artist who was also a passionate gardener. He also repudiated a literal or narrative structure and any idea of plot. This makes his work both difficult but rewarding.

Hidden Histories: The Experience of Curating a Male Same Sex Exhibition and the Problems Encountered


Volume 26.1

Hidden Histories was the first international historical survey of its kind to examine the lives and work of male artists in the 20th century who were same sex lovers. It comprised a curatorial project within The University of Wolverhampton, an exhibition at The New Art Gallery Walsall and a publication by Artmedia Press. This text looks at issues that arose in the production of the project which included a change of name from Mad About the Boy, ethical concerns, and censorship by the local council.

Hidden Histories did not contend there was a queer, gay or same sex aesthetic connecting the work of the surveyed artists. It did not 'out' anyone – all the information presented existed in the public domain. Hidden Histories documented how male artists' work was affected by evolving attitudes to homosexuality. Its thesis (the arch of openness) describes how public attitudes changed throughout the 20th Century; from prohibition in the late Victorian Period, to begrudging tolerance in the inter-wars years; from relative openness post WWI, to outright homophobia during the Cold War; and from decriminalisation in the West (following the Stonewall Riots), to stigma in the AIDS era. Hidden Histories was premised on the inter-dependence of same sex and dominant cultures, and demonstrates that irrespective of legal or societal prohibitions, same sex lovers continued to make a rich and varied contribution to artistic dialogue.