Jane Bowles (1917-1973)
Cementerio de San Miguel - Malaga, Spain, 2019
Limping from affluence in Long Island to the vanguard scene of Greenwich Village in the late ’30s, you charmed everyone you met, including your future “fellow traveler” husband, Paul. Living a bohemian life around the world you opened up the marriage to new people and experiences. While in Mexico you met your long term on-again-off-again lover, Helvetia Perkins. Your only published novel “Two Serious Ladies” didn’t match the success of your husband’s career but was celebrated by your peers. On advice from Gertrude Stein, you and Paul moved to Tangier, Morocco where you mingled with the artistic elite. You became entwined with a local grain seller, Cherifa, who always carried a switchblade to threaten castration to any male who got to close to you. A life of overindulging led to a stroke at forty, marking the rest of your life with pain and unfulfilled talent. Going to Spain for redemption failed after dancing too wildly at a birthday party ended it all.
Lucía Sánchez Saornil (1895-1970)
Cementerio de Valencia- Valencia, Spain, 2019
Raised by your poverty-stricken father you turned to the written form to express the frustration of your lived experiences. A male pen name let you secretly convey your desire for female companionship. Working as an underpaid telephone operator you took part in a union strike, which ignited your passion for social justice and led you to dedicate the rest of your life to social revolution. Joining the anarchist organisation Confederación Nacional del Trabajo as editor of their journal you wrote fervently about gender roles in Spain, rejecting motherhood and subserviency as the foundation of female identity. Disappointed by the chauvinistic attitudes of your fellow Republicans you co-founded Mujeres Libres (free women), to aid and empower working-class women to overthrow their oppressors. During the chaos of the civil war, you met your life long partner, America Barroso. As the Republic ended you fled to Paris together. With fascism spreading across Europe you returned to Spain despite your fear of retributions for your politics and lifestyle and lived out your days quietly with America.
Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)
Cimetiere du Trabuquet - Menton, France, 2019
Illustrating your way to infamy by being a foppish dandy artist who satirised Victorian morality, you once proclaimed, “If I’m not grotesque I’m nothing”. Becoming entwined with the British Decadents, Wilde saw you as a ‘kindred spirit’. Your big break came when he commissioned you to illustrate Salome. When Wilde went down for being a sodomite, guilt by association resulted in losing your job and standing. Rumours about your personal life were numerous, including an incestuous relationship with your sister Mabel, who became pregnant then miscarried. With tuberculosis taking hold you converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to Menton with your mother. On your deathbed, she might have forged a letter trying to destroy your obscene legacy but your publisher thought better saving your work as you passed away under the hill.
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
Cimetière de Monaco - Monaco, 2019
Surviving poverty and two teenage marriages you taught yourself to dance and sing, shuffling to Broadway during the Harlem Renaissance to become a chorus line girl. Touring Paris performing almost naked in a Cocteau banana skirt sent the European cultural elite into hysterics. Your star kept ascending becoming the first African-American to feature in a major motion picture, and the highest paid entertainer in Europe. A disastrous return home, where audience couldn’t handle a black woman with sophistication and power, led you to renounce your American citizenship. You used your celebrity power to access the political establishment during the war, collecting and passing notes hidden in your underwear for the French resistance. Back in the U.S you refused to play to segregated audiences and provided a powerful voice to the civil rights fight. Wanting to prove the possibility of racial utopia, you adopted 12 children from around the world calling them your rainbow family. Despite your possible relationships with Kahlo, Coletter and Bricktop, internalised homophobia prevailed and you deported your son for being gay, afraid that he could infect his brothers. After being evicted from your chateau, Princess Grace offered you a place in a Monégasque abode. You kept touring and performing until the final curtain call.
Chantal Akerman (1950 - 2015)
Père Lachaise Cemetery - Paris, France, 2019
Escaping your parent’s past you embraced the celluloid reality of motherly enmeshment. You documented the stifling conditions of daily domestic life of the female existence. Rejecting both critics and societies assumed agenda you created your own slow lens. A year after your mother passed there were no more home movies to be made.
Vaslav Nijinsky (1889 - 1950)
Montmartre Cemetery - Paris, France, 2019
Escaping your mind into your vocation got you out of Russia. You gave Sergei your body and he made you a star. Your sexual gestures in Spring caused riots in Paris. While trapped on a boat you married your stalker, despite not sharing a language. Retiring before 30, schizophrenia and heterosexuality stole your last years.
Karl-Maria Kertbeny (1824 - 1882)
Kerepesi cemetery - Budapest, Hungary, 2018
A memoirist and translator with friends in high places. The love of your departed friend inspired you to coin the term ‘homosexual’ and use it to try and change society for the better. You spent your life campaigning for gay rights, but it wasn’t enough to fully open your closet door.
Iolanda Balaș (1936 - 2016)
Ghencea Cemetery - Bucharest, Romania, 2018
Jumping to heights that no woman had ever been to, you dominated your field. Reluctantly representing Romania you won gold in Rome and Tokyo. At the height of your career they brought in gender testing and that was one bar you couldn’t rise to.
Queer Expats of Paris (installation view),
digital print on aluminium, dimensions variable, 2019
Côte d'Azur Queers, single channel video, 11:08, 2019