Emperor Ai of Han and Dong Xian
Emperor Hadrian and Antinous
Saints Sergius and Bacchus
Tsunetomo and Mitsushige
Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle
For my MFA thesis show, I designed a calendar that explores same-sex affection throughout history. I chose the calendar format for several reasons, not least of which is that the calendar is one of the most ubiquitous art forms on the planet. In contrast, LGBT people are often cast as the abnormal, subversive or abject “Other,” even (or especially) in academic “queer theory” discourse. This work stands to correct that, inasmuch as homosexuality is a normal variation of human sexuality, and gay people have always existed and contributed to society. At the same time, this work intentionally overcorrects and almost takes on the form of hero worship, in its focus on great historical figures, and compositions and poses that echo those of conventional romantic images found in romance novels, movie posters and storybook fairy tales.
All of these depictions are based on real people (with the possible exception of David and Jonathan, who may have been legendary). Most of these historical figures are widely accepted to have been homosexual or bisexual. Some of them, such as Saints Sergius and Bacchus, are known for their unusual closeness, but scholars disagree on whether or not they were romantically involved. History isn’t an exact science, and all too often truths are hidden or rewritten after the fact by people who wish to erase gay people from history.
This project wasn’t about proving without a doubt whether or not a certain historical figure was gay; but rather exploring same-sex affection when enough evidence existed to at least consider it a reasonable possibility. Some scholars are quick to dismiss the love between men like David and Jonathan as merely “platonic,” but ask yourself, if the love between a man and woman were described with as much passion and endearment, would anyone doubt that they may have been romantically involved?