Queer Feminist Art!
Curatorial statement by Birthe Havmøller
No one, two or three words can ever accommodate the sheer expanse of cultural practices that oppose normative heterosexuality. The authors of the seminal book, Art and Queer Culture (Phaidon, 2013) state, ‘Writing queer culture into art history means redrawing the boundaries of what counts as art’.
Queer Feminist Art often speaks to the world about the LGBTQ* communities, political issues and human rights or it focuses on the individual artist’s sense of identity, desire, sexuality, home and belonging. At other times the artists may decide not to reflect any of these issues in their creative practice, and still be somewhat ‘other’ or ‘queer’, creating works that reflect their individual lifestyles. In a male-dominated world, women’s lives and creative practices are always political.
Feminine Moments – a queer feminist art visibility project
Feminine Moments is a one-woman, no-budget project to promote and support lesbian, bisexual and queer women artists around the world. I have created this website that helps make queer feminist artists visible to a wider audience on the Internet. In November 2003, I felt that the world – especially LGBTQ* communities – needed a coherent body of resources about contemporary art made by lesbians and queer women artists so I launched Feminine Moments.
Feminine Moments, the visibility project and queer feminist art resource site grew out of isolation; my isolation, not having had a network as a lesbian and as an emerging artist in the 1990s in Aarhus, Denmark; not knowing how to create an in-person network as my local LGBTQ community was small in the early 2000s. Back then there was little to no awareness about queer art. Making a website, and disseminating knowledge and pieces of art news in this way was an attractive option. The Internet seemed to be an egalitarian tool; I had found a new voice. I could have my say in the internationally male-dominated art world by highlighting queer feminist art projects on the Internet.
I publish posts and articles about contemporary queer feminist artists and our female ancestors. My aim as an editor is to present the creative worlds of self-identified queer feminist artists as well as to highlight contemporary artists’ artworks, projects, or art events. The living artists know best how to describe their works of art, and I love publishing artists’ statements, images and video presentations by the artists themselves on the art blog. I welcome collaborations and have a running open call for materials in 2023-2024.
Two decades later, I am still as curious as I was in the early days of the project about where my queer feminist art research will take me next, and I am grateful to all the women artists who have contributed to Feminine Moments’ art blog throughout the years. The art blog has grown into a wonderful queer feminist art archive. To explore the archive just click on the artist’s name tag or browse an art category archive page.
I love queer feminist art!
The wealth of contemporary visual art made by lesbian, bisexual and queer women artists around the world is huge. The art world should pay more attention to it. – The European queer feminist art herstory has not yet been written. There are huge language barriers in Europe that limit the sharing of knowledge about art and queer culture. There is no informal queer (feminist) canon. The European LGBTQ artists, art historians are in the early days of starting dialogs about the creative practices that come from queer culture in a world that is increasingly hostile and homophobic.
Feminine Moments is somewhat biased in that it is made for an English-speaking readership. I predominantly present artworks/art projects for “white cubes” exhibition spaces, museums, galleries, and/or public spaces, along with resources such as Feminine Moments’ bibliography with art books most of which are in English. However, I am working on extending what I see as ‘artworks’ to include subcultural phenomenons such as queer crafts, zines and graphic novels. Furthermore the category of “Birthe’s pick” features videos about pieces of art news and interviews with artists’ talks from Europe, in other languages than English.
Who is who?
It is tremendously exciting to explore the diverse niche of queer feminist art. In the early 1990s, prior to the launch of Feminine Moments and before the Internet happened, my world was a world of lack and I asked myself, where are the lesbian and queer women artists?
The Lesbian of the 1970s was a ‘feminist’. The street-level use and reclaiming of the derogative term ‘queer’ happened in the 1980s but it wasn’t until a decade later that the term queer turned into the polite catch-all, almost “neutral” adjective for LGBTQ+ people as in ‘queer woman’ or ‘queer feminist artist’. The queer communities presented a new ‘queer’ archetype to the world: the political activist that would fight for human rights issues and tell you that you must not assume anything about their sexuality as well as protest against the ‘old’ political agendas of the LGBT organisations.
In the early 1990s, philosopher Judith Butler, a lesbian herself, and her queer colleagues created the “Queer Theory” about our identity as gendered beings and our self-presentation being a repetitive act of daily ‘performances’, presenting the individual to the world in their varying degrees of normative or gender non-conforming expressions. Through the 1990s the Queer Theory caught on in academia as a new method by which to analyse anything and everything, including works of art by LGBTQ artists. In the 2000s the world was beyond the point of no return: The field of ‘queer art’ had come to Europe. But the waters were still muddy and I guess more gay women identified as lesbian artists than as queer (feminist) artists back then.
With the different iterations of the art blog, I improved the taglines of the visibility project. In 2013 my slogan and USP tagline read “Fine art by lesbian and queer women worldwide”. However, the online porn industry highjacked the term “lesbian art” to the extent that, at one point, Google image searches no longer would show artworks by actual living lesbian artists but lots of soft lesbian erotica made by men. Then I adopted the term “queer feminist art” and I coined the present slogan “Queer Feminist Art Worldwide”. Now, public debate and censorship have made Google remove almost all erotic imagery from their search results so that today. Now, a Google image search for “lesbian art” shows drawings of queer comic characters or lesbian pulp fiction cover images.
The general awareness about lesbian/queer feminist art herstory was low when I launched this visibility project. Unfortunately, most curators of queer (feminist) art still lean into the American queer art debates. and queer art history teachers talking about queer feminist art will usually fill in the gaps with stories about the lives and oeuvres of famous gay male artists. I appreciate their work to reach out to the LGBTQ communities, but their queer strategy just isn’t good enough for me.
I want to know who our creative lesbian ancestors are. Their artworks may not have been discussed in a “lesbian/queer” sense when they were created but we are making them a part of our queer feminist art herstory. These artists and their artworks deserve to be remembered rather than hidden in art museums around the world or in their families’ attics if their works were “private” and only meant as “erotic conversational pieces” to be shared with their dearest queer friends while they were living. I am happy to see now that the number of rediscovered lesbian/sapphic artists is growing and that the European lesbian and queer feminist art herstory is rising out of the darkness of the 20th century.