Thursday, April 13, 2017

Queer Art

Early this week I found myself walking around humming "Centerfold," the J. Geils Band tune. It's one of my regular earworms, and somehow it got stuck in my head again, appearing seemingly out of nowhere. (I haven't heard it in years, and it's not in my iTunes library.) And then I read, to my surprise, that J. Geils himself had just died. It was a strange moment of synchronicity -- but then I wondered if I'd heard the song being played somewhere in the background as an homage to Geils. Maybe that's what put it in my head in the first place? Very mysterious.

Yesterday I went to the Tate Britain to see "Queer British Art 1861-1967," apparently the first exhibit dedicated entirely to LGBTQ art in Britain. It was quite extensive and included works by well-known artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Francis Bacon, and lesser known (at least to me) ones like Simeon Solomon, Henry Scott Tuke, Dora Carrington and Keith Vaughan. It even included the door to Oscar Wilde's prison cell, which was both fascinating and chilling to see -- a reminder that it's only been a few decades since gay sex was decriminalized in the UK, and that it's still criminal in many parts of the world.

After the exhibit I went walking across the Vauxhall Bridge, and for the first time noticed the huge sculpted figures on its support columns. Clearly I've never looked closely at this bridge before! I need to go back and do some more photography there, but here's an iPhone view:

That's Alfred Drury's sculpture of "Fine Art," seen from atop the bridge. The allegorical figures, which include Agriculture, Architecture and others, are much easier to see when you're on shore, but they were too distant to photograph from there with my phone. I got a cup of Starbucks coffee and sat on a bench beneath the fortress-like MI6 building (Britain's version of the CIA), and enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine.

Today I'm off to Newcastle. Coming to you tomorrow from Northumberland!

(Top photo: A man painting in Walthamstow, on Monday.)


  1. That exhibition sounds fascinating, and those sculptures clearly need more attention...Have a great time in Newcastle!

  2. I would love to see that exhibition. There is an amazing movie about Dora Carrington and the whole artist scene at the Bloomsbury fringe and Emma Thompson plays Dora. Highly recommended. Have a great time up north.

  3. Regarding the odd synchronised memory of J. Geils on the day he died, I had a very similar experience on the day that Sandy Denny died - 21st April 1978. There I was strolling to my classroom on the edge of the school campus singing "The Sea" under my breath. That night on the radio news I learnt that she had died earlier that day.
    P.s. I hope you can understand what local people say to you in Newcastle. Perhaps you sshould have taken Geordie lessons beforehand!

  4. Yep, I still recall J. Veils blasting from my son's teenage room. Love Bearsly - I remember going to a display of his work when I briefly lived in London in the '60s.

  5. I actually saw the J. Geils Band once. They were awesome.
    Okay. That picture of the huge sculpted statue? Oh. My. God. Amazing.
    I can't even comment on Oscar Wilde's imprisonment and the history of how humans have treated each other because of differences. I wish I could say, "Boy, that was weird! Glad we don't do that any more!"
    But I can't, really. Can I?

  6. Will give the exhibition a look..we are back off to london soon

  7. I've always like Aubrey Beardsley but that Francis Bacon is kind of creepy.

  8. I can picture where you were perfectly since I was just there in October. I love the photo from the bridge. I've always admired that bridge and I did get some photos of it but, I never thought to take one from that angle and I like it very much. I love that MI6 building. It's such a fortress-like structure and so unique looking. I also LOVE the Tate Britain. It's another beautiful London museum. I had a little pang of jealousy reading that you visited there. I so wish I could just pop in anytime I wanted.
    Safe travels. I can't wait to see what you find in Newcastle!

  9. Your photo of that bridge sculpture is wonderful. She looks like she's about to speak to me. The Queer Art exhibition sounds like one I'd like to see. Enjoy your trip to Newcastle!

  10. I see from the linked article that the bridge dates back to 1907 - that seems like quite the engineering feat to me, for it to still be in use. The sculpture looks massive.

    Have a good trip!

  11. In the early 1990's I wandered into an awesome bookstore in washington DC. It was the next day when I went by I noticed that it was a gay book store! However, it was a great store to browse through and yes, a few years before and it wouldn't have been there.