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Australian Art  
page: 1  2  

Big Girl also raises issues related to gender construction. The word "butch" brings masculine associations to mind; yet jewelry is quintessentially feminine. The combination of these two elements reminds the viewer that identity is complex and unstable. Since the person who wears Big Girl does not fit into accepted gender roles, the accuracy of these roles is called into question.

Vanessa Buemi and Karen Coull

Works by artists Vanessa Buemi and Karen Coull address these same issues, with a feminist spin. Both artists use handcrafted objects to explore stereotypes of femininity. Buemi's Femme with Butch Tendencies, for example, consists of an exquisite length of crocheted pink yarn, to which steel crampons are attached.

Similarly, a thorn-encrusted pillow by Karen Coull is designed to unsettle. A commonly held belief is that females are supposed to be soft, yielding, and manageable like a pillow; they are not supposed to harm others, or to be capable of violence and rage.

Linda Dement

Linda Dement (b.1959) uses her artwork to break the stereotype of the passive, yielding female. In her electronic videos, she positions female subjects in a culture of pain, abuse, and abandonment as a means to give them both salvation and ammunition.

For the interactive CD-ROM Cyberflesh Girlmonster (1995), about 30 women scanned parts of their bodies and digitally recorded a sentence or another sound, such as a dog barking. Dement then animated conglomerate bodies culled from this information and created interactive monsters. When the viewer/participant clicks on one of the monsters, words may be heard or seen, sounds may be heard, another monster may appear, or a digital video may play.

Cyberflesh Girlmonster reveals the various attributes of a male-dominated society, such as rape, that spawn monstrous responses in women. The work treats women as powerful individuals who have revenge fantasies that they act out. For example, in one part of the work, text that reads "If only a woman could kill just one of the men who has raped her" is followed with several video clips that demonstrate bloody scenarios by which a woman might physically act out revenge.

James Gleeson

James Gleeson (b. 1915) is perhaps the most famous Australian artist who addresses homosexual themes in his work. He began painting in the surrealist style in the 1930s. Since that time, he has created a multitude of works that explore the subconscious. Psychoanalytic theory informs his paintings, which are as elusive to the mind as they are seductive to the eye; their meanings seem just beyond conscious understanding.

Some of Gleeson's paintings have homoerotic undertones. In these works, nude men populate strange, colorful landscapes that may suggest the artist's mind. Perhaps these works illustrate the unconscious as it entices the conscious mind to take pleasure in male flesh. If so, these works may represent the universal struggle of the liberation of the individual will from one stronger than its own, such as that of society.


Australian artists play an important role in the gay/lesbian/transgender community. Their bold, innovative works increase awareness and understanding about alternate genders and lifestyles.

Joyce M. Youmans

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arts >> Overview:  Australian Film

The recent efflorescence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer themes in Australian film must be placed in the context of a film industry that, prior to the 1970s, was characterized by social conservatism and censorship.

literature >> Overview:  Australian and New Zealand Literatures

In the past two decades Australia has come to occupy a leading place in gay and lesbian literature, and New Zealand has recently produced some significant gay and lesbian texts.

arts >> Overview:  Australian Television

Despite some important breakthroughs in the depiction of gay men and lesbians in the past, Australian television today lacks any regular and open discussion of queer issues and lives.

social sciences >> Overview:  Australia

Given its history, it is somewhat surprising that Australia now has exceptionally gay-friendly laws and public attitudes, with widespread public tolerance and acceptance of the glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sydney

With thriving glbtq communities, an accommodating atmosphere, and a mammoth Mardi Gras celebration, Sydney is a center of glbtq culture and a favorite destination for tourists of all genders and sexualities.

arts >> Bowery, Leigh

Club host, fashion designer, face about town, and artists' muse, Leigh Bowery transformed his body into a centerpiece of his performance art.

arts >> Dobell, Sir William

Regarded by many as one of Australia's greatest portrait painters, Sir William Dobell created works that are replete with homosexual subtexts even as he spent his life hiding his sexuality from conservative Sydney society.

arts >> Friend, Donald

Australian artist Donald Friend was an eccentric man of wide-ranging creative talents: a great painter, an exceptional draftsman (especially of the nude male figure), and a gifted satirical writer.

arts >> Gleeson, James

One of Australia's most acclaimed artists, James Gleeson embraced surrealism early in his career and has remained committed to it as a means of exploring and expressing psychological conflicts and conditions.

arts >> Goodsir, Agnes Noyes

Australian painter Agnes Goodsir became part of the legendary lesbian scene in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s; her portraits of women have an erotic and radical edge.


Ashburn, Elizabeth. Lesbian Art: An Encounter with Power. Sydney: Craftsman House, 1996.

_____. "Stirred Heart and Soul: The Visual Representation of Lesbian Sexuality." Jill Julius Matthews, ed. Sex In Public, Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1997.

"Decoding the Secrets of Surrealist James Gleeson." University of Technology, Sydney, News. (October 16, 2001):

Dement, Linda. "Cyberflesh Girlmonster." Digimatter.

_____. "In My Gash." Digimatter.

Dow, Steve. "Posting Teasing Messages." The Age (December 18, 2001):

Kelley, Deborah, and Tina Fiveash, "Hey, Hetero!" ABC Online. 2001.

Hardy, C. Moore. "Lesbian Erotica and Impossible Images." Jill Julius Matthews, ed. Sex In Public, Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1997.

Riley, Vickie. "Singing the Body Electric: Cyberporn and Art in Linda Dement's Work." Creative Camera 336 (October-November 1995): 30-33.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Webcast.

"The 2002 Anne and Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarships." University of South Australia.


    Citation Information
    Author: Youmans, Joyce M.  
    Entry Title: Australian Art  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 7, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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