Academic journal article Canadian Woman Studies

Portraits of Famous Queer Artists

Academic journal article Canadian Woman Studies

Portraits of Famous Queer Artists

Article excerpt

In my teens and twenties I was drawn to many gay male and female writers but didn't realize I myself was gay. Coming of age in Toronto, I had read most of the collected works of authors like Christopher Isherwood, James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, E.M. Forester, Katherine Mansfield and Colette by the time I was in my mid-twenties. When I came out in my late forties, I discovered more lesbian writers and artists including May Sarton, Willa Cather, Ann Bannon, Patricia Highsmith, and Isabel Miller.

Before coming out I had already started a project of portraits of various types of people including more well know figures such as Dickens, James Joyce, and historical figures like Elizabeth the First. Then I realized it would be interesting to do an ongoing series of queer artists that had inspired me over the years including writers, painters, composers, dancers and film makers.

Many of these figures were important role models for me as a young gay artist. As a gay person, this was very significant for me as I did not have these kind of overt role models growing up as a teenager. My experiences were largely invisible and here were writers putting into words tangible proof that what I was thinking and feeling was viable and worthwhile, even holy in some way.

My coming out process led to the creation of this art work and an increasing ability to celebrate and express my creativity as a woman. Before this time in my life, I felt I often had to keep myself small, not offend anyone and cater or conform to those around me. As a mature woman, I now feel the confidence to become fully who I am and explore all the aspects of self including, sexuality, creativity and need for connection with a female-centred sense of community.

These portraits are of five queer women writers whose work inspired me as a gay woman.

Daphne du Maurier: I was drawn to her novel Rebecca because I grew up in a family where there were a lot of secrets and there was much that was hidden. The mystery of Rebecca was mesmerizing.

Gertrude Stein: I loved her poetry and was intrigued by her relationship with Alice B. …

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