Tuesday, June 20, 2023

An Interview with Jonathan D. Katz: Founding Father of Queer Art History

By Patric Stillman


Secret by Maurice Cassidy

For the sixth edition of PROUD+, the Studio Door art gallery is collaborating with Founding Father of Queer Art History, Jonathan D. Katz. He is the Associate Professor of Practice, History of Art and Gender Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Katz is an art historian and curator who specializes in queer art.  He is known for his contributions to the field of LGBTQ+ art history and his research on the intersection of art and sexuality.  Katz has written extensively on queer artist, queer aesthetics, and the representation of LGBTQ+ indignities in art.  His work has played a significant role in highlighting and contextualizing the contributions of LGBTQ+ artists throughout history.

Katz is recognized for his work on significant exhibitions such as "Hide/Seek" in 2010 at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the traveling exhibition "Art AIDS America" in 2015.

Here are highlights from a recent interview with Katz:

Jonathan D. Katz

Hide & Seek exhibition - National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian (2010)

How did you find yourself at the forefront of the work that you do? 

"I was studying art history as an undergraduate and kept seeing queer things.  No one was talking about it. When I did try to bring it up, my professors told me ‘that’s self interested critique and you should stay away from that.’ But I was a street activist so it was natural for me to politicize my endeavors and engage in a form of activism.

It wasn’t an easy road.  I got thrown out of the best graduate schools in the country.  It’s been a checkered road because inevitably when you start doing the work that I do without a template, you encounter the weird homophobes and there are so many of them, especially in the arts. Who knew? We thought that this was a safe place.”  

Lavender Resilience Pride March by RD Riccoboni

You have been traveling to Latin America recently, what programs are you involved with there?

“I have a significant Andrew W.Mellon Foundation grant which allows me to fund Latin American institutions to create exhibitions on the theme of dispossession. Almost all of them include queerness as a form of dispossession and some of them are exclusively about queerness.” 

Reflections I by Gerard Huber

Watching You by Stevan Dupus

Champagne by Dmitriy Gushchin

Exhibitions have already been built around art created in response to HIV/AIDS (Columbia), Trans Identity in Latin American Art (Panama), Histories of Slavery (Chile) and Amazonian Indigenous Art (Peru). 

Last year,“First Homosexuals” opened in Chicago.  How is that project expanding?

“I’ve been working on (this exhibition) for the last six years. The first iteration was last year and the bigger iteration will be in 2025, which will entail an international tour at A-list museums. It uses the date 1869, when the word ‘homosexual’ was coined, as a marker.  It looks at art 50 years before and after that date to understand what the invention of a binary sexuality resulted in.

The interesting thing about this show is that its international in scope so there is work from Turkey, Iran, India and other places that you wouldn’t expect to find queer work. A lot of major acknowledged masterpieces that have long been central to a national culture that is being reclaimed under queer guise.”

Michael T. by Amos Badertscher

 What advice would you give an emerging LGBTQ+ artists who are seeking to gain recognition or navigate the art world?

“Nobody ever got ahead by being inauthentic. Recognize that you are at the tip of the spear. And the world will bend towards you.  It may not do so in the timeframe that you want but it will.”

Queer Time No. 2 by Tanner Blackwell

During PROUD+, San Diego will be treated to select works from Jonathan D Katz personal collection that bring attention to two major contemporary photographers, Del LaGrace Volcano and Amos Badertscher, whose work is rarely seen in the US.  Del is currently working on a solo exhibition for Tate Modern in London and in Sweden.  Amos is having a retrospective of his work at Albin O Kuhn Gallery at University of Maryland Baltimore later this year.

How grateful I am to have a role with PROUD+ because this is all piling up. Each of our individual endeavors are slowing shifting the perimeters of what the art world understands itself to be.

Kathy Acker by Del LaGrace Volcano

The sixth annual PROUD+ exhibition: June 29 to July 29, 2023 
Gallery artists reception: Saturday, July 8th form 6 - 9 PM.
The Studio Door art gallery 
3867 Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest, SD  92103
patric@thestudiodoor.com 619.255.2867

Gallery hours: Tuesday through Saturday from Noon to 7 PM. 
Free admission 

The public is encouraged to support the artists and gallery through the purchasing of artworks.

Patric Stillman  is a visual artist and contemporary art gallery owner. He is known for his figurative paintings and the gay-themed international bestseller Brotherhood Tarot. He is the gallery owner of The Studio Door, one of Hillcrest’s premier art gallery.  

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