Program Date: March 27, 2024
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This SAH CONNECTS program concerning interiors will be significant as a collaboration between two professional organizations, the SAH Historic Interiors Group (HIG) and the College Art Association (CAA). Timothy M. Rohan, co-chair of HIG’s Events and Conferences Committee, will organize the event, introduce it, and participate. The editor-in-chief of CAA’s Art Bulletin, Christy Anderson, will moderate the discussion. It will bring together authors who have written about queerness, shame, and interiors for a special March 2024 issue of the Art Bulletin. The program will draw attention to new scholarship reflecting the turn towards queer theory, which academic discourse about interiors, design, and architecture has been relatively slow to accept. Shame is shown by the discussants as an affect that has limited analysis of makers and their interiors, but also as one which helped forge them. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick has said that though they retain their pain, the forms taken by shame, “are available for the work of metamorphosis, reframing, refiguration, transfiguration, affective and symbolic loading and deformation.”

The Art Bulletin will share the four articles with registrants in advance. The panelists will discuss their research and analytical approaches. They will respond to questions posed by the moderator, themselves, and attendees.

The discussion will explore the themes and questions raised by the four closely related essays. John Potvin asserts that the queerness of male interior designers from the interwar period has been overlooked in interiors scholarship. Shame is the affect which can help in reconsidering them. Providing a case study for such inquiries, Alice Friedman unearths what was queer about an interior decorator who circulated in avant-garde circles in early and mid-twentieth century America. Kevin Murphy expands the notion of queerness and the interior through his study of Boston’s Beacon Hill “gayborhood” in the 1920s and 1930s. Timothy M. Rohan moves the discussion into the late twentieth century with an explication of queerness and shame in the Minimalist interiors of 1970s Manhattan. By considering shame, the authors raise questions about gender, sexuality, and space which offer new directions for interiors scholarship, itself a relatively new field.


Woman with grey hair, glasses, and yellow shirt

Christy Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of CAA’s Art Bulletin



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John Potvin, Concordia University, “The Materials of Shame: Decoration, Masculinity and the Birth of Modern Interior Design”

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Alice Friedman (Wellesley College), “Interior Decorator is Dead”

Man with glasses and short grey hair

Kevin Murphy (Vanderbilt University), “Welcome to the Gayborhood: Beacon Hill Between the Wars”

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Timothy M. Rohan (University of Massachusetts Amherst), “Queering the Minimalist Interior”