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Museums at Washington and Lee set to host Gallery Talk

Washington and Lee UniversityThe Museums at Washington and Lee University are hosting the third Gallery Talk of the term on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Northen Auditorium in Leyburn Library.

The talk, which is free and open to the public to view online or in person, is titled “A Wilde Teapot: Exploring Race, Gender and Sexuality.” Participants can attend in-person in Northen Auditorium or on Zoom at tiny.cc/wilde.

Jake Reeves, assistant director of inclusion and engagement for LGBTQ support, will moderate a discussion between Ron Fuchs, senior curator of ceramics, and Sarah Horowitz, professor of history. The talk will examine attitudes toward gender nonconformity and how ideas about a gender binary intersect with white supremacy.

“I’ve had the pleasure of bringing students in classes on the history of gender and sexuality to see the Oscar Wilde Teapot in the past and am so excited to have this event that is open to the public for LGBTQ+ History Month,” said Horowitz. “The teapot is a fascinating object that allows us to better understand the intersections between understandings of a gender binary and ideas about whiteness in the late 19th century, as well as celebrity culture and Wilde’s status as an icon for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Fuchs will use some of the Reeves collection during the discussion, particularly the Museums’ porcelain teapot inspired by the 19th-century playwright and celebrity Oscar Wilde.

“Ceramics have long been used as a tool of cultural commentary, and this teapot is a particularly blatant example,” Fuchs said. “Made in 1882, it is modeled to look like a man on one side and a woman on the other. It satirizes the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and 1880s, Oscar Wilde, and Darwin’s theory of evolution. It reflects the fear — and fascination — of changing gender roles.”

In addition to the talk, tea and sweets will be served in the Northen Lobby starting at 5:30 p.m.

The talk is sponsored by the Museums at W&L, the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program.