Archive | Queer Matters

Beautiful Resistance: Why Protest Art Matters

Recently I was at a dinner party of my peers, which is to say: Not Young People. (Thus far, most Generation Xers refuse to refer to themselves as middle-aged, though we surely are.) The subject came around, as it inevitably does these days, to the Trump administration and the turmoil wracking our country and world (besides France). ““I feel like there’s no protest music being made anymore,” said one friend. “Dude,” said another. “I feel like there’s no protest art being made anymore, period.”

On the way home, I realized how much I disagreed with that statement. One of the fundamental roles of art always has been to shed light on the human condition–to increase our empathy for each other. Even art that ostensibly focuses only on beauty–Monet’s lilies, for example, or ee cummings’s lowercase homages–is also about love and mortality, which brings us back to the human condition. And the concept of “beauty” has always been subjective and intensely fraught; read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye if you need a refresher on that concept.

But let’s not be fatuous. Not all art is equally charged. Karen Finley’s performance art is a provocative tool of second-wave feminism while “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2″ hardly challenges the status quo in any significant way. To even compare the two seems ridiculous, which begs the question: Isn’t there a place for fluff-o-tainment that allows us to turn our brains off sometimes? Isn’t there room in our cultural arena for, say, the “Real Housewives” television franchise and “The Wire,” David Simon’s potent examination of Baltimore power structures? For James Ellroy’s pulpy noir and Paul Beatty’s sharply observed fiction? For the works of kitsch masters Walter (and Margaret!) Keane and activist-artist Kerry James Marshall? Continue Reading →

‘After Andy,’ Forever Warholia

Fashion journalist Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni’s memoir, After Andy, would be a gas even if it didn’t dish on the life and times of Andy Warhol. I use the term “gas” because the whole book crackles with English, French, and American twentieth-century slang and spoonerisms in the most delightfully gassy way. To hear Fraser-Cavassoni tell it – and she’s a truth-teller even when the truth paints her as a daft bird – her whole life has been quite a gas. Born in 1963 to best-selling author Lady Antonia Frasier and politician Sir Hugh Frasier, her stepfather was Nobel Laureate winner Harold Pinter and family friends included Caroline Kennedy, Lucian Freud, and Jean Rhys. When she was seventeen, Natasha began an affair with Mick Jagger, whom she met on a luxury yacht. She also met pretty much everyone else worth meeting in seventies, eighties, and nineties London, New York, and Los Angeles during her reign as an international “it girl” who worked as a model, actress, agent, and general gadfly. In short, she was Paris Hilton before Paris Hilton, with three key exceptions. Natasha had a sense of humor. Natasha could write. And Natasha served as the last of Andy Warhol’s “English muffins” – the term for the succession of well-bred English girls who worked in the Factory, Warhol’s legendary creative studio and business center. Continue Reading →

‘Radical Hope’ with Carolina de Robertis (Q&A)

An award-winning novelist and literary translator, Carolina de Robertis has donned a new hat for her latest literary effort, that of anthology editor. In the wake of the November 2016 U.S. presidential election, she put out a call for politically inflected love letters in the tradition of James Baldwin’s 1963 The Fire Next Time essay, “My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to My Nephew.” The result is Radical Hope, a series of epistolary essays that are bound to shore progressives in the months and years to come. We discussed this remarkable collection with de Robertis, who lives in San Francisco with her wife and children.

LISA ROSMAN: Let’s start with nuts and bolts. Is this book merely a response to the election of Donald Trump?

CAROLINA DE ROBERTIS: It’s not just about the election of Trump because I think it’s important to extend our gaze to something larger and deeper in our country, though he as an individual is certainly his own kettle of dangerous fish.

The idea came to me three days after the election. I was sitting at my writing desk unable to work on my own novel, and I was thinking about how writers might be able to respond and contribute to the dissent and resistance that was going to be necessary in the coming social and political climate. I have a big photograph of Baldwin hanging over my writing desk and I couldn’t stop thinking about that essay in which he addresses his nephew. It seemed to me that his form of letter-essay was particularly helpful for blending personal reflections with sweeping political analysis, a blend we very much need in these times. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy