Queer Studies in Art History proceeds from the recognition that while the arts in general have often been a refuge for those marginalized because of their sexuality, they have hardly been a paragon of freedom. Queer artists necessarily pursued a range of strategies to cloak imagery that could reveal their sexuality, often electing to make work that signified very differently to different audiences with different competencies. Only rarely does queer art figure sexuality directly, for it is more commonly evidenced among questions of absence, allegory, metaphor, and authorial dissimulation—forms of tracking sexual difference in the gaps between representations, rather than the representation itself.
While queer studies can and should apply to every other field of study, it tends towards a deeper presence in 19th and 20th century, American, and Contemporary. Always, we treat queerness intersectionally, for sexuality always travels alongside gender, race, class, not to mention complicated questions of chronology, geography, and epistemology.
Jonathan D. Katz, a pioneering figure in the development of Queer Studies in Art History, has written many of the first accounts of the import of sexuality in the work of a wide range of key cultural figures from John Cage to Agnes Martin to Kent Monkman. He offers courses spanning the late 19th century to the present in American art, and post WWII to the present for art in a transnational context. While his work focuses on questions of sexuality, gender and embodiment, he is most interested in non-positivist approaches that favor silence, elision, and dissimulation as key markers of sexual difference. Katz is also a very active curator, doing queer exhibitions on a wide variety of topics worldwide.
Karen Redrobe's feminist film scholarship and teaching frequently engages queer studies, most frequently via queer film and media theory. She is a faculty affiliate of Penn's LGBTQ Center and a member of the GSWS faculty.