ART: Sophia Wallace and “Modern Dandy”

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The proliferation of queer fashion blogs and editorials in the last year is astounding (my new favorite being Queerture), and no doubt deserves a post of itself. Into this fray, Sophia Wallace’s photographs in a series called “Modern Dandy” are just one of a number of projects that consider the dandy as critical figure. Wallace’s artist’s statement reads:

The dandy—conventionally defined as a strikingly attractive man whose dress is immaculate and manor is dignified—has been around since the late 18th century. Often misunderstood as superficial, the dandy is rather a space of creative possibility where men and women can perform a persona in ways that reach far beyond the narrow binary constructs of masculine and feminine. Indeed artists like Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, H.H Monro and less recognized women such as the American painter Romaine Brookes and her cohorts found Dandyism to be a liberatory space not only for appearance but more importantly, for a life of independence that did not necessarily adhere to a deterministic heterosexual model of marriage and children. Examples of modern dandies include Andy Warhol, Quentin Crisp, Grace Jones. My many years focusing on gender, race and constructions of beauty led me to dandyism as a radical position for art making and social critique. Indeed, dandyism’s subversive aesthetic of beauty disrupts normative gender in fascinating ways. Beauty is defined in almost all contexts as the domain of femininity which is commonly understood as frivolous, weak and passive. The dandy is neither traditionally feminine or masculine. Rather, the dandy is an aestheticized androgyny available to men, women and transgender individuals. Herein lies it’s power and it’s danger.

Now, I love me a dandy –friends who know me in real life can testify!– but something that requires some consideration (and femme theory) are the parameters of androgyny, or genderqueer, especially practically — which items of clothing signal androgyny, through what ensembles (or assemblages), on which bodies?

2 Comments

Filed under (AD)DRESSING GENDER & SEXUALITY

2 responses to “ART: Sophia Wallace and “Modern Dandy”

  1. I like the project, but I can’t think in dandyism as a subversive category, as it’s linked to Whiteness, power and privilege in a very obvious way. Dandyism reinterpretations are interesting, but I don’t see the point in continuing retaking it as a radical position. I wrote my Master’s thesis on critical representations of Whiteness focusing on the work of Yinka Shonibare and his performativity of dandyism, but now all this dandy stuff sounds a bit naïf for me…

    By the way, I’ve just started following the blog and I love it!

  2. AG Sherman

    But subverting that whiteness, power, and privilege is what makes it *subversive.*

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