Four narratives of cross-dressing in twentieth-century art : Marcel Duchamp, Claude Cahun, Eleanor Antin, and Diane Torr
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This essay looks at cross-dressing as a trope in fine art across the twentieth century. The respective contemporaneous discourse that was taking place informed artists Marcel Duchamp, Claude Cahun, Eleanor Antin and Diane Torr's art practice. These separate artistic engagements are referred to as narratives. Duchamp was engaged with the Victorian era's notion of allegorical alchemy, which was widely accepted as an artistic endeavor by many modern artists, and its connection to androgyny. Cahun was engaged in the medical models of homosexuality, which was synonymous with cross-dressing during the early part of the twentieth century and questioned rigid gender roles. Eleanor Antin's engagement with cross-dressing involved depicting powerlessness and the figure of the loser during the Vietnam War era. Finally, Diane Torr used cross-dressing to interrogate the notion that gender was essential. Cross-dressing can be understood as a concept that supports disruption, intervention and refusal. It's positions fluidity against any rigid binary systems, transcending conversations on gender.