March 23, 2008
Dear Zwickler Foundation,
I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for the Phil Zwickler Memorial Research Grant I received through the Human Sexuality Collection at Cornell University during the 2007-2008 academic year. I visited the HSC at Cornell during the Fall of 2007 to begin research on my dissertation on contemporary fat and lesbian visual representations, currently titled Envisioning Bodily Difference: Refiguring Fat and Queer Subjects in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture, 1968-Present. My dissertation will explore how self-identified fat and lesbian individuals have visually negotiated their identities through photography, painting, performance, and periodicals over the last four decades.
I applied for a Zwickler grant in order to look at the numerous lesbian and feminist periodicals held by the Human Sexuality Collection. Upon visiting the collection, I was not disappointed. I spent more than two months reading through lesbian and feminist journals, magazines, and zines looking for references to, images of, and articles about fat oppression, acceptance, and liberation from the 1960s through the early 2000s. In addition to reading widely published journals such as Sinister Wisdom, Amazon Quarterly, and Lesbian Connection, I found materials that I hadn't known existed in such periodicals as Broomstick, Lesbian Insider Insighter Inciter, and Quest: A Feminist Quarterly. All of these, and other publications, have proven to be a substantial foundation on which my current research rests.
While at Cornell, I presented a talk about my research findings through the Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay Studies department and the Queer Colloquium series. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to share my findings at the location in which the research took place. I felt welcomed and supported by archival, academic, and activist branches of the Cornell community as my presentation took shape and at the talk itself.
Since returning to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles at the start of 2008, I have presented a paper at the College Art Association in a panel entitled Queer Love Boat? The Politics of Inclusion in Visual Culture. My paper, Fat is a Queer Issue: A Politics of Visual Representation, was based in part on the research I conducted at the Human Sexuality Collection. In it, I looked closely at three lesbian periodicals produced from 1974 to today in order to examine the strategies of visual representation of fat lesbians with which each publication engaged. I originally found two of these publications, Common Lives/ Lesbian Lives and Lesbian Connection, in the holdings of the HSC. The HSC has almost complete runs of each of these periodicals, and this was an invaluable resource in the researching process.
I continue to integrate and expand upon my research from the Human Sexuality Collection in the research I am currently conducting in Los Angeles at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives and One National Gay and Lesbian Archives. I have plans to revisit the East coast and travel to Northern California and Oregon as well, as I work on gathering visual and textual support for my dissertation. I expect to finish my research and dissertation writing within the next two years, and hope to receive my PhD in Art History by Spring of 2010.
Thank you again for the support of the Zwickler Foundation. The financial, academic, and archival assistance I received while at Cornell's Human Sexuality Collection has set the tone for my future academic research. For this I am very grateful.
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Art History
University of Southern California