Tag Archives: visual culture

Black, Queer and in Vogue

22 Oct

Colorlines’ ongoing series Life Cycles of Inequity explores facets of the Black male experience in the US. This article and photo series by Kai Wright and Gerard Gaskin (first published in September 2014 on colorlines.com) take us inside the culture of house balls, underground events where gay and transgender men and women, mostly African American and Latino, come together to see and be seen. The images come from Gaskin’s 2013 book ‘Legendary. Inside the House Ballroom Scene’.

Gerard Gaskin: “Legendary. Inside the House Ballroom Scene”.

Hip-hop is not the only place where young black artists deeply influence mainstream culture and entertainment—and do so without recognition or pay. Pop artists have for decades appropriated the style, dance and sound generated inside the black and Latino LGBTQ community’s house ballroom scene. From Madonna’s 1990 “Vogue” to the Scissor Sisters’ 2012 “Let’s Have a Kiki,” the creative teams of Top 40 performers have consistently mined the scene for inspiration.

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Seeing gender, doing gender: the visual culture-visual impairment dilemma

26 May
Source: Wiki media commons

Source: Wiki media commons

We live in visually hegemonic times. Everything about who we are and what we do is poured into an image. A look or a lifestyle is constructed and given a distinct yet recognizable aesthetic language and practice all its own. Gender ideals are heavily produced and circulated through visual imagery. Even though such images pull meaning from a variety of popular (forward thinking?) discourses, gender in the old fashioned sense persists: women are generally constructed as bodies and men constructed as minds, and so the story goes. The presence of women in mainstream visual culture as bodies to be scrutinized and desired has been disproportionate to men, but this is changing. By far the most visible account of masculinity is unemotional, self-determined, willfully independent and, above all, performance-driven. Sound familiar? In theory, the visual realm is a space where identity is more easily contestable and the either/or ties that bind categories of identification are rendered diminishable. Images allow us to challenge and re-imagine the universal logic associated with mainstream norms and beliefs in ways that pure text cannot. At the same time, they make it possible to disseminate this logic in a given form more widely. Mainstream media and culture do tend to favor a very limited view of many things, especially gender. And we, as an audience, tend to be easily persuaded by what we see, especially when it’s all around us. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag here, I realize, but what if visual culture is breathing new life into the age-old exemplars of masculinity?

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