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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Renaissance art, theater expert headlines 'Sex and Power' at SU Nov. 10-11

CUNY's James Saslow discusses Renaissance painter Gianantonio Bazzi

Oct. 28, 2011, by Rob Enslin

The Ray Smith Symposium in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences continues its yearlong examination of “Sex and Power from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment” with a mini residency by a gender and sexuality expert in art and theatre.

James M. Saslow, professor of Renaissance art and theater at the CUNY Graduate Center, will present a keynote lecture titled "Gianantonio Bazzi the Sodomite: A 'Gay Gaze' in Italian Art" on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Kilian Room (500) in the Hall of Languages. The following day, he will participate in a Ray Smith-HC Mini-Seminar from 9:30-11:30 a.m. (with breakfast served at 9 a.m.) in The SU Humanities Center Seminar Room (304) of the Tolley Humanities Building. Both events are free and open to the public; however, the seminar requires registration.

For more information about the keynote lecture, contact Cassidy Perrault in The College’s Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Programs at (315)443-1414. For more information about The HC Mini-Seminars, contact Karen Ortega in The SU Humanities Center at (315) 443-5708.

“We are extremely honored to have James Saslow visit campus,” says Dympna Callaghan, co-organizer and SU’s William Safire Professor of Modern Letters. “His lectures will focus on the famous Renaissance painter Gianantonio Bazzi, who rendered a body of work rich in homoerotic implications. In particular, Dr. Saslow will explore evidence for Bazzi's flamboyant life and its social background; the various ways he expressed his desires in art, thus, earning the nickname ‘The Sodomite’; and his adoption as a cultural ancestor by modern gay artists and writers.

A founding member of CUNY's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, and of the College Art Association's Queer Caucus for Art, Saslow has written extensively about gays and lesbians throughout history. His interest in iconography, social history, art, and literature has resulted in acclaimed translations of the homoerotic poetry of Michelangelo. Saslow is currently working on a study of Bazzi and on a memoir of gay and lesbian culture. A board member of New York's Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Saslow is helping establish the nation's first chartered museum for LGBTQ art and artists.

“His lectures will surely be of interest to practitioners and historians of theater, dance, music, and the visual arts, as well as to students of political and economic history and cultural studies,” says Callaghan, adding that Saslow has created costumes and backdrop for a Baroque opera production, written and directed a stage adaptation of a famous Renaissance book, and created a libretto to an opera based on an Oscar Wilde novel.

This year’s Ray Smith Symposium is organized and presented by the Renaissance and Medieval Studies Working Group, composed of interdisciplinary scholars from across campus. Callaghan has taken a leadership role in the planning.

“Sex and Power” is enabled by a bequest from the estate of Ray W. Smith ’21. Additional support for this year’s programming comes from the Office of the Chancellor; the departments of art and music histories; English; history; languages, literatures and linguistics; women’s and gender studies; the LGBT Studies Program; and the SU Humanities Center, which sponsors the mini seminars.

The next visiting scholar is Princeton University’s Wendy Heller, Dec. 1-2.

This winter, “Sex and Power” partners with Syracuse University Library for an exhibition titled “The Power and the Piety: The World of Medieval and Renaissance Europe.” The exhibition showcases a variety of rare books and manuscripts, including illuminated prayer books decorated in gold leaf, a page from the Gutenberg Bible and an antiphonal Elephant Folio, from the Special Collections Research Center. For more information, contact Sean Quimby, librarian and director of the SCRC, at (315)443-9759.

The Ray Smith Symposium is named for the Auburn, N.Y., native who, after graduating from SU in 1921, was a highly respected teacher and administrator.