Browse Exhibits (1 total)

Representations of Sex and Gender in Art


"Sexuality is, of course, inextricable from its representations, which shape and frame the way people think about and remember their own sexual experiences."

-Josie McLellan, Love in the Time of Communism, pg. 19

This exhibit, a collection of various types of artwork which span different time periods and geographical regions, seeks to explore the varying manifestations of artistic and cultural representations of sexuality and gender in modern European history. By exploring the public and widely consumed artist representations of sexuality, and placing them in conversation with actual lived experiences of European citizens, political actors, and the artists themselves, we offer our audience a more complex understanding of the spectrum of sexual experience across time and culture. This exhibit was made by Bonnie Wei (BMC ‘15), Austin Cheney (BMC ‘16), Sydney Stotter (BMC ‘17) and Brandon Boccellari (HC ‘15), students of ‘From Bordellos to Cybersex’ (History 238) at Bryn Mawr College in the Spring 2015 semester. 

The overarching theme of our exhibit is the interpretation of the history of sexuality through art in all of its manifestations. There is no single story that can be told about the expression of sexuality in visual art, literature and film, but rather a collection of narratives which originate from the stories and lives of individuals. Brandon and Bonnie’s portion of the exhibit centers on the reactive nature of the literature and art produced by Western Europeans throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century. Brandon focuses on non-heterosexuality represented in Victorian Era literature. Analyzing the lives of Andre Gide, Thomas Mann, and Oscar Wilde and how their experiences of sexuality were reflected in their respective novels The Immoralist, A Death in Venice, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Much like the characters in their novels, Andre Gide, Thomas Mann and Oscar Wilde were better off keeping their homosexuality relatively under wraps, and so used their literary art as a platform of expression. Bonnie will focus on how the shaping and reshaping of gender roles during the interwar period affected the lived experiences of upper class women through looking at the visual art that women created during the time.  In order to highlight the unique experiences of the upper class women during the interwar period, Bonnie will juxtapose the works of these prominent female artists with famous works created by their contemporary male artists.    

Both Sydney's and Austin’s parts of the exhibit center on the ways in which the past is conceptualized and remembered through artwork, specifically in the context of Eastern Europe. Austin focuses on the change in design of Jewish tombstones in Poland between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Tombstone art does not portray the experience of the deceased, rather it shows how their loved ones want to remember them. How did tombstones change as a result of World War I, and how does that reflect how men and women were remembered before the war versus after the war. What do the inscriptions and symbols on the tombstones suggest about gender roles among the Polish Jews? Sydney’s topic examines how the post-war Soviet state used its film industry to project comtemporary ideals about gender onto films about wartime experience. Her project incorporates three films made during the post-Stalin ‘Thaw’ that represent a range of experiences encountered by Soviet women during WWII, and compares these cinematic representations to the actual lived experiences captured by photographs and diary entries from the period. Ultimately, the project aims to consider the ways in which the experience of the Second World War, particularly for women, was ‘rewritten’, and for what purposes the state chose to do so.


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