Title

Gender-Bending: Claude Cahun and Masculine Identity

Lead Author Major

Self-Designed: Visual Studies/Public Relations

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Merrill Schleier

Faculty Mentor Department

Visual Arts

Abstract/Artist Statement

Donning disguises that prefigured postmodernist feminism, Claude Cahun's risqué constructions of a manipulated identity have only been recognized recently. Her self-depiction in scenes that explore gender and sexual identity issues, have named the French Surrealist photographer as Cindy Sherman's predecessor. Superseding the labels of queer, woman, and Jew, Cahun produced a wholly new person. She attempted to remove herself from the constraints of femininity through the grotesque representation of herself, deflecting the heterosexual male gaze, and replacing it with a body that rejected society's labels. Through the creation of this new identity, Cahun renounced homophobia and conventional gender roles in Europe between the 1920s and 1940s. This transformation of her appearance is often labeled as androgynous. This essay deconstructs art historians’ prevailing understanding of Cahun's self portraits (specifically those taken during the 1920s) as gender ambiguous and instead establishes that it is a masculine identity which is portrayed, contradicting the previous notion of her submission to a feminine gender position. Employing gender theory in the analysis of Cahun's performances along with the historical context of her activism, the self-constructed in these photographs emerges. By removing herself of visible genitalia, long hair, and feminine poses, Cahun formulated a new masculine identity.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211A/B

Start Date

21-4-2011 5:00 PM

End Date

21-4-2011 8:00 PM

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Apr 21st, 5:00 PM Apr 21st, 8:00 PM

Gender-Bending: Claude Cahun and Masculine Identity

DeRosa University Center, Room 211A/B

Donning disguises that prefigured postmodernist feminism, Claude Cahun's risqué constructions of a manipulated identity have only been recognized recently. Her self-depiction in scenes that explore gender and sexual identity issues, have named the French Surrealist photographer as Cindy Sherman's predecessor. Superseding the labels of queer, woman, and Jew, Cahun produced a wholly new person. She attempted to remove herself from the constraints of femininity through the grotesque representation of herself, deflecting the heterosexual male gaze, and replacing it with a body that rejected society's labels. Through the creation of this new identity, Cahun renounced homophobia and conventional gender roles in Europe between the 1920s and 1940s. This transformation of her appearance is often labeled as androgynous. This essay deconstructs art historians’ prevailing understanding of Cahun's self portraits (specifically those taken during the 1920s) as gender ambiguous and instead establishes that it is a masculine identity which is portrayed, contradicting the previous notion of her submission to a feminine gender position. Employing gender theory in the analysis of Cahun's performances along with the historical context of her activism, the self-constructed in these photographs emerges. By removing herself of visible genitalia, long hair, and feminine poses, Cahun formulated a new masculine identity.