Liam Arne explores the ways in which the popular Instagram account re_gayze challenges the beauty standards within the gay male community and pioneers a different mode of queer expression, addressing the subject of 'the male gaze'.
Instagram is an intoxicating app which centers photographs as the primary mode of communication. As the technology has firmly established itself in the American social scene, many gay men have used the app to promote an image of themselves as muscular, white, desirable, artsy people which reinforces existing discriminatory beauty standards within the gay male community. re_gayze attempts to challenge this increasingly dominant portrayal of LGBT peoples as vapid, sex- and self-focused, and homonormative by reintroducing the importance of decidedly queer art in the development of a decidedly queer identity in the 20th century.
re_gayze’s title reveals much about its mission: it tackles the subject of the “male gaze” oft mentioned in first year art history lectures, something we can see played out in the instagay posts of today as men place their gaze upon other gays and themselves. However, this smart title reveals how the specifically gay male gaze is particularly important to the progression of art in the last century and recenters our knowledge about queer history and art, often outing artists’ obfuscated intentions in the process. And if nothing else, it reveals curator Blake Oetting’s sense of humor and willingness to play with the subject matter as he explores these artistic phenomena!
Oetting brings an incredible knowledge and passion about queer art history to each and every one of the account’s 99 posts. In effect, each post appears to wrap up into one account a variety of statements including an ode to the queer art form, an A-worthy art history essay, and a fun, irreverent take on queer art that is rarely afforded to the genre and could seemingly only be found on a medium like Instagram.
re_gayze’s incredible attention to detail is critical when dissecting the minute dimensions which artists use to queer their art to find the hidden meanings behind seemingly innocuous or uncontroversial pieces. To the uncorrupted eye, artworks like Jasper Johns’s “Flag” could seem to be a simple patriotic omage, but Oetting breaks it down to reveal its grander symbolism as “gay gay gay gay GAY!”
However, the present is not off-limits from re_gayze’s gaze — and how could it be in this pivotal decade for queer existence? The account breaks its fourth wall to carefully praise Moonlight’s big wins at the 2017 Academy Awards, an appropriate response to the remarkable success of a film representing black queer experiences previously underappreciated in mainstream film studies.
Most importantly, re_gayze never settles for telling a whitewashed story about queer identity and artistic evolution. It explores every genre, every style, every medium to demonstrate the beautiful diversity in queer expression that has blossomed for hundreds of years into the present. It refuses to ignore racial and class dimensions nor hyperfocuses on gay men to the exclusion of lesbians, bisexuals, trans people of all genders, or anyone else under the queer umbrella. It is inclusive and honest at every turn, and it could not be more stunning for that. re_gayze is a visually striking, poignant, and informative Instagram blog you have to check out if you are looking to explore queer art and identity.