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Angela Jimenez, Same-Sex Ballroom, Petra & Caroline, Chicago, 2006 Digital C-print, 13 x 20 in. Gift of the artist. Leslie-Lohman Museum Collection.

ON THE DOMESTIC FRONT: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life

Aug 14, 2015 - Dec 06, 2015

Despite stereotypes of erotomania, LGBTQ folk actually spend much of their time doing what everyone has to do: eat, wash, exercise, make a living. By World War I, queer artists were documenting their daily lives. These images, drawn primarily from the Museum’s collection, illustrate ordinary queer existence at home, at play, at work – and in dreams.

Such scenes are called “genre”–depictions of everyday life. They hold special importance for queers, who seldom see themselves in mainstream culture and hunger for images that validate their reality. Genre feeds three realms: personal, political, and historical.

In personal terms, one’s home interior helps create the interior of the self, and identity enables community. As historian George Chauncey remarked in Gay New York, “the world created by homosexuals in the city’s streets, cafeterias, and private apartments became the crucible in which they forged a distinctive gay culture.” Politically, domesticity is timely as the queer struggle shifts from the right to be different toward the right to common experiences. “Domestic front” is a military metaphor, and the visual representation of queer domestic lives is one battlefront in this culture-war. Third, genre images chronicle social history; since few queers grow up with queer parents, these snapshots are the closest thing to a collective family album.

These artworks contribute to a longstanding debate: Are queers, apart from sexuality, “just like everyone else,” or do they have distinctive sensibilities? These images of the queer quotidian demonstrate both uniqueness and universality.