ANNE PASEK | Disorientations: John Singer Sargent and Queer Phenomenology

Pasek SargentArt history has long struggled to find a method to account for the diverse expressions of queer desire across the heterogeneous landscape of history. While there has been a surge of research on the lives, artworks, and audiences of artists that trouble the heterosexual norm, the wider impact of this scholarship is often limited to singular biographies. Following the call for greater self-reflexivity and acknowledgement of difference in queer theory and phenomenological approaches to art history, the additive goals of gay and lesbian scholarship with its political investment in strategies of representation can be brought into scrutiny. To this end, a critical historiographical review of gay and lesbian art history is undertaken and a queer phenomenological method is presented as a new means forward. Applied to the work of John Singer Sargent, it is argued that a focus on the spatial orientation of bodies in his album of male nudes provides a more nuanced and ethical account of the queer than a focus on identity and identifications.

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