Emily Macenko

Emily Macenko received her BA in Art History with a concentration in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2005. Currently pursuing a MA in Visual & Critical Studies from CCA, Emily is completeing her thesis, which examines artworks and horror films from the 1980s to expose and critique mainstream (mis)representations of the homosexual male body and cultural fears of visibility that persisted in the United States during the AIDS crisis. In addition to pursuing her Master’s degree, Emily has been a teaching assistant at CCA, the registrar & gallery assistant at SLATE contemporary, and a custom framing intern at Kuhl Frames + Art. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, Emily coordinated alumni programs and exhibition opportunities at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

About Emily Macenko’s Thesis Project

Emily Macenko

The Politics of Representation: Images of Male Homosexuality during the AIDS Crisis

The association of AIDS and homosexuality in the United States during the 1980s exposed cultural fears over nonnormative sexual behavior and its visibility. Mainstream representations of the gay male body, often displayed in the horror film as threatening, embraced exisiting anxieties of otherness and constructed homosexual identity through a heteronormative lens. The slasher film A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) perpetuated this mainstream depiction as a threat to traditional masculinity, reinforcing proper gender and sexual roles. To bring awareness to the actualities of these marginalized positions, gay, male artists during this decade who were affected by AIDS, such as photographer David Wojnarowicz, used their works to critique inaccuracies in these portrayals. Examining these two arenas of representation in film and art, this project encourages viewers to question perception and discrimination in our current society, while highlighting art as a powerful medium to confront and redirect these stereotypes.

Watch Symposium Presentation

Read Sightlines Article