20 Rue Jacob: Re-envisioning the Portraits of Romaine Brooks through a Cross-Disciplinary Queer Salon 

Research presentation by Courtney Harris - Assistant Professor, Department of Dance and Choreography/School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University (USA) and Charli Brissey - artist and choreographer (USA).   

Charli Brissey and Courtney Harris are Richmond-based artists who have been collaborating on theater and video dance projects since 2012. By pursuing queer and feminist approaches to their art-making practices, they seek to engage lively and progressive discussion by creating works that question mainstream society and culture. Their films have screened at dance and LGBTQ festivals throughout the United States and internationally. Brissey is currently pursuing graduate studies at The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, while Harris teaches as an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Dance and Choreography.   


Inspired by the life and work of early twentieth-century painter Romaine Brooks, 20 Rue Jacob brings Brooks’ unique portraitures to life through video, sound, sculpture, modern dance, drag, and physical theater, resulting in an immersive performance and art installation, while also mirroring salon events of 1920s Paris. Brooks, an American ex-patriot primarily stationed in France and referred to in texts as both a lesbian and bisexual, was a painter most famous for androgynous portraitures of lesbians, masculine women, and female dandies. Her paintings reveal non-traditional qualities of gender fluidity, exposing traces of the underground lifestyle of these rogue individuals. Transgressing the social mandates of their time through self-actualized utopias, these women—referred to by Katherine Anne Porter as “the company of Amazons”—celebrated their sexual freedom by coming together in salon settings that served as hotbeds for cultural, artistic, and political discourse significant to Paris at the turn of the century. Accordingly, the intentions of this project were to create a revisionist artwork that reimagines and honors homosexual voices of the past, while recontextualizing sexuality and gender through current migratory identities using new technologies and cross-disciplinary processes. Co-presenters Charli Brissey and Courtney Harris consider the following questions: What are the possible challenges of portraying historical images that depict real people? How can we consider an historical event, both literary art salons and queer spaces, and re-imagine their design and import today? What are the possibilities of cross-disciplinary collaborations when addressing queer art and identity?  

Organized by IUGTE in collaboration with "ArtUniverse"