Dive 1 - Visual Culture

Reflections

When I first conceived of this, I had a couple of moments in mind. One moment was the weekly experience of logging into the online grading program my school uses. It is not there any more, but on the landing page, there was an image of young blond teacher, smiling at the camera.  She looks very professional, and like a teacher through and through. Proper, positive, pure. 

The other moment is when I did an image search using the term "lesbian." Almost all the results are of young women making out.  Overwhelmingly sexual. 

One of the themes in my life as a lesbian has been an awareness that by being out, people are often immediately aware of me as a person with a sexuality.  My own mother said this.  The search results line up with this.   

Using the term 'dyke' yields mostly images form the Dykes on Bikes intro to most gay pride weekends.  But it seems to be the one that most reflect reality, instead of stereotypes and fantasies.  I have to note how many women allowed themselves to photographed topless, but not in a seductive way. Just walking around in a gay pride parade.  Those are the ones that get photographed the most I suppose.  The times I have been to pride parades there was not that much of that.  

One of the effects of the gay marriage movement is that a lot of the camp and flamboyant-ness has decreased, and gay people, as they become more accepted, also become more conventional.  The "yeah, I'm gay, so what?" has really become a soooooo what.  There is really nothing interesting going on here. Just two regular, un-exotic people building a life together.  

Does being a professional means that your sexuality should not be noticeable?  You can be sexy in your red power suit, but it should be so that you can manipulate and get your way. Not to make people aware that you are different, aberrant.   Sometimes teachers at my middle school show cleavage. 

Once I pinned images capturing this tension, I wanted to explore how I express my gender and orientation, and what has influenced that.  I am a "femme" so my gayness is only apparent when I am out with my partner, who is more androgynous than I am.  She has had a very different experience than me, getting verbally and sadly even physically accosted because she is tall and doesn't conform to to female gender norms.  

Starting in middle school and up through most of high school, I lived in fear of looking "dykey".  I looked for images from the 80s when I was a teen for how I defined dykey. Many teen actresses who were tom boys were of course thought of as lesbians, such as Jo from the tv show the Facts of Life.  I had a strong reaction to these public images because I was both repelled and attracted to them.  There was always a hope that the show or movie would question and explore why the character wasn't like other girls.  I was scandalized by their difference.  What if they were?  What would that mean to know another girl my age who admitted it?

Accepting my own orientation took a long time. It took a long time for me to really see it.  Part of that was my gender presentation.  Since I didn't look gay, I didn't think I was allowed to be gay.  Other girly looking gay girls seemed fake to me. I didn't believe them, so how could I believe myself?  Stupid. 

And now, what do I do with this as an artist? What do I do with this collection of images, that look so funny together, particularly these two:

 

So the next step in Rohloff's Imaginarium process is to explore the images, their emotional impact, who owns and benefits from the images, and whose reality and voice is excluded.  There are a lot on the pinterest board, so I will decide which ones to explore further based on their emotional impact for me.