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Hollis Griffin on John Waters

For the Love of Trash: John Waters, Low Theory, and the Art of Queer Curation

Hollis Griffin

In this gallery talk on John Waters: Indecent Exposure, Dension University Associate Professor Hollis Griffin examines how the artist offers a distinctly queer perspective—on what counts as art, the value of trash, and the utility of eschewing staid ideas about beauty in order to imagine them anew.

John Waters approaches media culture with a raised eyebrow. His movies are an homage to texts that are often dismissed as mere garbage: postwar women’s weepies, the iconography of the teenage “jezebel,” and murderous housewives splashed across the pages of tawdry magazines. Waters uses these “low” objects to offer wry commentary on gender and sexual norms, as well as taste and aesthetic hierarchies.

The current exhibition Indecent Exposure enlarges Waters’s archive, illustrating how his playful cultural critique extends across many other mediums. Everyday objects are affectionately made absurd; images of a gift basket for losers and a throw pillow with the word “FLOP” stitched across the top invite us to question conventional notions of consumerist desire, offering us new ways of seeing the mundane. Images of the insides of appliances and photos of his drag queen muse Divine further his commentary on women’s work and the performance of gender.

More about the speaker

Hollis Griffin is an associate professor of media studies at Denison University, where he teaches and researches the cultural politics of media culture, particularly as they intersect with questions of sexual identity and desire. He was previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Colby College. His book, Feeling Normal: Sexuality and Media Criticism in the Digital Age (Indiana Univ. Press, 2017) was named an Outstanding Academic Title for 2017 by Choice, the publication of the American Library Association. Griffin is associate editor for the journal Communication, Culture & Critique and has served on the editorial boards of Film Criticism and Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture. He was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

Image: Hollis Griffin, photo: TJ Thomson.

Cardinal Health Foundation
Huntington Bank

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Ohio Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Nationwide Foundation


Past Talks & More

Hollis Griffin on John Waters