Student Spotlight | Gabriel Chazan Presenting at Midwest AAR

UW–Madison Art History Ph.D. Candidate Gabriel Chazan will present a paper entitled “Robert Giard’s Queer Portraits as Jewish History” at the Midwest American Academy of Religion Conference hosted at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO from March 23–25. His paper argues that the AIDS crisis can be productively seen as a moment in Jewish collective memory and history through an analysis of a selection of the late Robert Giard’s portrait photographs of queer writers. This is most clearly shown through Giard’s partner Jonathan Silin’s re-presentation of Giard’s many photographs of Jewish subjects as an angle onto the broader project. Giard himself was not Jewish or affiliated with any faith. Giard nonetheless photographed a wide range of Jewish subjects including Allan Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Tony Kushner, Sarah Schulman, Leslie Feinberg, Irena Klepfisz and many others. Giard’s broader body of portraits also encompass a far wider community including many African American and Latinx subjects. Looking at the curated selection of Giard’s portraits of Jewish writers reminds the viewer of the intensity of Jewish involvement in queer life, literature, and activism. This representation leads to a suggestion of how communities not directly formed as part of Jewish practice can be seen as a part of Jewish collective memory or, in historian Lila Corwin Berman’s term, imagine a “Jewish history beyond the Jewish people.” Through an analysis of several portraits, this paper will argue for some of the possibilities opened up by close attention to the points of intersection between Jewish and queer history, a preoccupation of Gabriel’s ongoing dissertation research.