Glick book discusses dandies, capitalism from Wilde to Warhol

The book deals with famous figures from Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol.
Elisa Glick, associate professor of English and women and gender studies, reads excerpts from her new book 'Materializing Queer Desire: Oscar Wilde to Andy Warhol' on Thursday evening at the Center Project. Glick discussed the relationships between homosexuality and modernism through well-known icons.

An MU professor presented her book discussing the relationship of queer identity to capitalism Thursday night in downtown Columbia with students and community members.

Elisa Glick, an English and women's and gender studies professor, read a chapter from her book, "Materializing Queer Desire: Oscar Wilde To Andy Warhol" at a book signing. The signing was hosted by the Center Project, a mid-Missouri Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning rights group.

Glick described a dandy as someone who lives for art, beauty and pleasure and said her book examines how capitalism values the same things.

"The materialism in the title is meant to cause people to think about gay and lesbian identity in terms of capitalism, which is something people don't often do," she said.

Although the chapter she read Thursday deals exclusively with Warhol, Glick said her book is not about one artist. Instead, the book talks about how dandy characteristics were present in the works of several artists since the trial of Wilde up to Warhol's era.

Calling Warhol the "first great pop dandy," Glick said the artist used glamour, effeminacy and celebrity connections to advertise himself as an artist. But, she said Warhol might have just been reflecting what people in the world around him valued.

MU student Sean Jarvis, who attended the book signing, said he was interested by the relationship between the dandies' desires for beauty and art and the desires of consumers in a capitalist system.

"It's very interesting," Jarvis said. "I think the relationship between queer culture and commodification is a very generous one."

Glick said Warhol and other artists working in the campy style aimed to deflate the seriousness of worldly objects and what is typically made into art by praising simplicity and making mistakes in those objects more noticeable.

Warhol, who had a foot fetish, also explored the sexual charge behind glamorous things, as with his paintings of jewelry-studded high heels while at the same time mocking the extreme desirability capitalism typically associates with products that convey an image of wealth.

Art history professor Elizabeth Hornbeck asked Glick whether all figures who are considered dandy were also queer. Glick said dandies did not necessarily have to be queer, but queer characteristics were common among many dandy figures in history.

"I have always thought of a dandy as a heterosexual image," Hornbeck said. "I was interested most in why she was focusing on dandyism as a queer image."

The Center Project opened its community center on Ash Street in May. The center is open on Saturdays and serves as office space for three other partner organizations, Prism, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the MidMO LGBT Coalition.

Carol Snively, president of the Center Project's Board of Directors, said her group had been working to open the center since 2003 and did so this year because the all-volunteer organization now has enough money on hand to run for at least one more year, one of its goals.

Snively said Glick had volunteered to present her book when the center asked. She said presenting at the center might have helped Glick's message reach more people who are interested in queer issues than an on-campus presentation.

"She's been a big supporter of the center in so many ways," Snively said. "We're so proud to be the first venue to share what she has written with others who may not have heard about it."

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