The Leslie-Lohman Museum Speakers Series presents David J. Getsy’s talk which explores performance artist, playwright, and fashion designer Stephen Varble (1946–1984), who was a fixture on the streets of SoHo in the 1970s, but whose 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 the story of Varble’s work through interviews and private archives, and he will present this new research that, for the first time, discusses the range and complexity of Varble’s artistic practice.
David J. 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 (Yale University Press, 2015), Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-1975 (Soberscove Press, 2012), Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (Yale University Press, 2010), and most recently Queer for the Whitechapel Gallery’s “Documents of Contemporary Art” book series (MIT Press, 2016).
The Leslie-Lohman Speakers Series is an annual program presenting artists, curators, and cultural icons to the public. The series explores the role of art making in the LGBTQ community and contributes to the cultural and artistic activity of New York City. Lectures are free and open to the public. Funding for this series has been received in part from the generous support of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and educational grants from the Arcus Foundation and the Keith Haring Foundation.