A daringly observant memoir about intergenerational trauma, fine art, and compartmentalization from a returning Soft Skull author and Lambda Literary Award winner
A mixture of memoir, biography, criticism, and social history, Touching the Art
is queer icon and activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s interrogation of the possibilities of artistic striving, the limits of the middle-class mindset, the legacy of familial abandonment, and what art can and cannot do.
Taking the form of a self-directed research project, Sycamore recounts the legacy of her fraught relationship with her late grandmother, an abstract artist from Baltimore who encouraged Mattilda as a young artist, then disparaged Mattilda’s work as “vulgar” and a “waste of talent” once it became unapologetically queer.
As she sorts through her grandmother Gladys’s paintings and handmade paperworks, Sycamore examines the creative impulse itself. In fragments evoking the movements of memory, she searches for Gladys’s place within the trajectories of midcentury modernism and Abstract Expressionism, Jewish assimilation and white flight, intergenerational trauma and class striving.
Sycamore writes, “Art is never just art, it is a history of feeling, a gap between sensations, a safety valve, an escape hatch, a sudden shift in the body, a clipboard full of flowers, a welcome mat flipped over and back, over and back, welcome.”
Refusing easy answers in search of an embodied truth, Sycamore upends propriety to touch the art and feel everything that comes through.
Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation
As the gay mainstream prioritizes the attainment of straight privilege over all else, it drains queer identity of any meaning, relevance, or cultural value, writes Matt Bernstein Sycamore, aka Mattilda, editor of That's Revolting!
. This timely collection shows what the new queer resistance looks like. Intended as a fistful of rocks to throw at the glass house of Gaylandia, the book challenges the commercialized, commodified, and hyperobjectified view of gay/queer identity projected by the mainstream (straight and gay) media by exploring queer struggles to transform gender, revolutionize sexuality, and build community/family outside of traditional models. Essays include Dr. Laura, Sit on My Face,” Gay Art Guerrillas,” Legalized Sodomy Is Political Foreplay,” and Queer Parents: An Oxymoron or Just Plain Moronic?”