Excerpt: I recall these art historical obsessions with negation in order to frame Sally Mann’s own absences, which I will present unceremoniously and unpoetically as a list. She is absent from conventional, academic art histories, which resent her for eluding appropriation, for being a photographer and not an artist-using-photography, for intersecting with the popular imagination, and for sidelining academic discourse in her writings in favor of the poetic. Relatedly and always surprisingly, she is largely absent from feminist art histories, save a smattering of essays, such as those by Anne Higonnet (2001), Jennifer Friedlander (2008), and Claire Raymond (2017). Finally, she is absent from queer histories of censorship and the Culture Wars, with Robert Mapplethorpe and all his cold and careless handsomeness dominating that discussion at the expense of others, like Mann, the Guerrilla Girls, and Judy Chicago—each of whom faced censorship in the same period.
This essay argues not only for the centrality of non-white emotionality to progressive film criticisms, but also for the importance of fostering a dialogue around artists of color that does not center on deconstruction or opposition.
Anne Carson writes: “Desires as round as peaches bloom in me all night, I no longer gather what falls.” We might never harvest Math Bass’s forms, and maybe we shouldn’t; maybe conversely we let the orchard become overrun, Gothic, a place where the fruit just serves worms and curious children. Another quote exterior to me: the Log Lady says, “My log does not judge.” One could say perhaps that the log does not interpret; the log does not tell histories, only stories. What is the difference, anyway? The log can’t or won’t tell you, for instance, if something is sufficiently ambiguous or undecidable to be considered queer.