Arts & Culture

Art Historian David Getsy to Give Talk on Kentuckian Stephen Varble’s Genderqueer Performances

photo of David Getsy lecture poster
David Getsy’s free public lecture, “Rubbish and Dreams: Stephen Varble’s Genderqueer Performances in the 1970s,” will begin noon Friday, Dec. 1, at the 21c Museum Hotel.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 30, 2017) The University of Kentucky School of Art and Visual Studies will present a lecture by art historian David Getsy on the work of performance artist Stephen Varble as part of the school’s Visiting Artist Series. Getsy’s free public lecture, “Rubbish and Dreams: Stephen Varble’s Genderqueer Performances in the 1970s,” will begin noon Friday, Dec. 1, on the second floor of 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Lexington.

Performance artist, playwright and fashion designer Stephen Varble was a fixture on the streets of SoHo in the 1970s, but his ephemeral practice has largely gone unrecognized in histories of art. His guerrilla practice aimed at disruption — of commerce, of gender roles, and of the institutions of art and celebrity. In elaborate sculptural garments made of street trash, Varble held unauthorized gallery tours through SoHo and protest performances in banks, Fifth Avenue stores and in the street.

A favorite of photographers such as Greg Day, Peter Hujar and Jimmy DeSana, Varble’s art performed gender transformation and hybridity for both popular and art audiences in the 1970s. Over the past five years, David Getsy has been recovering, through interviews and private archives, the story of Varble’s work from his early performances as a student at UK to his participation in Fluxus and Andy Warhol’s Factory to his unique brand of street performance to his work in video art.

Varble, who was born in 1945 in Owensboro, Kentucky, died in 1984 in New York City.

For his lecture, David Getsy will discuss Varble’s work and the struggle to write the first history of this performance artist who left little behind and who was antagonistic to the art world’s institutions.

Getsy is the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include “Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender” (2015); “Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-1975” (2012); “Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (2010)”; and, most recently, the collection of artists’ writings, “Queer,” for the Whitechapel Gallery’s “Documents of Contemporary Art” book series (2016). His current major projects focus on archival-based recoveries of queer and genderqueer performance art in the 1970s.

This lecture is made possible with support from the Abercrombie Foundation Research Fund.

The UK School of Art and Visual Studies, at the UK College of Fine Arts, is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the fields of art studioart history and visual studiesart education, and digital media and design.

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