Tilly Scantlebury

PhD student

Being Together With Others: Queer American Art and the Family 1990-2020

Supervised by Dr Jo Applin
Funded by AHRC / CHASE 


Chapter One focuses on three photographic portrait series by American photographer Catherine Opie, tracing her use of photography as a queer tactic in the wake of the AIDS epidemic which makes literal the attempt to increase the visibility of the queer community she was part of. This chapter makes original intervention by reading Opie’s oeuvre backwards and against itself. Indeed, rather than working chronologically through her expansive oeuvre, the chapter concludes with her first major photographic series, the playful and repetitive Being and Having (1991). In so doing, I use the explicit tactics of representation found in her later Domestic (1998) and Self-Portrait Series (1993-2003) to shine new light on Opie’s first major work, taking them as evidence that Opie was in fact visualising the queer family from the very start of her career.

Chapter Two continues to examine the politics of the visibility and representation of queer subjects, via a medium which is largely absent from art historical analysis, with American illustrator A.K. Summers and her graphic novel Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag (2014). This chapter addresses two gaps in academic research: the lack of inquiry into how ‘masculine’ women negotiate pregnancy, and the exclusion of pregnancy in influential accounts of ‘female’ masculinity. I also attend closely to Summers’ use of the graphic medium, both as a way to unpack her idiosyncratic representation of a ‘resolutely butch’ pregnant subject. Building upon feminist accounts of corporeality, I interrogate Summers’ uses of the graphic medium to visualise and articulate the estrangement of the pregnant butch experience. Indeed, I complicate the compulsive association of pregnancy, femininity, and heterosexuality, demonstrating how the pregnant butch subject expands existing literature. 

Chapter Three marks an aesthetic shift away from the explicitly representational modes of Catherine Opie and A.K. Summers, focusing on the abstract practice of multidisciplinary American artist Harry Dodge. Contributing to the emerging reception of Dodge’s work, this chapter puts his abstract sculptures, including the Consent-not-to-be-a-single-being series (2015) and memoir My Meteorite: Without The Random There Can Be No New Thing (2020) into conversation with each other. I argue that Dodge’s work expands the idea of family relation to a radical and queer end. In making a case for a universal type of relationality, Dodge tests the boundaries of this thesis on the queer family, yet in doing so makes clear the wealth of tactics available to queer artists to visualise viable ways of being in the world, and being with one another.


  • PhD The Courtauld Institute of Art, (2017 – present)
    AHRC/CHASE funded.
  • MA History of Art, Courtauld Institute of Art, Distinction. (2015 – 2016)
    – Special Option: ‘Sex and Violence in American Art, 1960-Now’ with Professor Mignon Nixon.
    – Thesis Title: Bisexuality & Louise Bourgeois: precarious objects and the unmanageable subject. An anxious encounter with Avenza and Avenza Revisited (1968-69).
  • BA Art History, University College London, First Class Honours. (2012 – 2015)


  • Wrote and delivered ‘Art History and Creative Careers’
  • Wrote and delivered ‘Art and Queer Theory’ and ‘Art and Feminism’ for the Insights into Art History workshops (Winter 2020).
  • Art History Summer University, introduction to Art History for Year 12 students (Summer 2020).
  • BA and Graduate Diploma Foundations Course, ‘Modern and Contemporary Art’ teaching assistant, The Courtauld Institute of Art. (Summer 2019)
  • Guest lecturer, ‘Queer Subjects’ for 1st year BA and Graduate Diploma students (Summer 2019).
  • MA Core Methodology Course, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Autumn 2018).

Research Interests

  • Feminism
  • Queer Theory
  • Bisexuality
  • Gender and Subjectivity
  • Materiality
  • Modern and Contemporary art


  • The Dean’s List, 2015.
  • Frances Stracey Sessional Prize, 2014.

Conference Papers

  • ‘Everyone and everything in relation: Harry Dodge’s sculptural and textual practice’, Third Year PhD Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, June 2021.
  • ‘Queering the experience of pregnancy and parenthood: A. K. Summers’ Pregnant Butch’, Second Year PhD Symposium, Third Year PhD Symposium, The Courtauld Institute of Art, June 2019.
  • Being and Having, Looking and Living: Catherine Opie’s Being and Having series and the Queer Communal Experience, paper given at ‘Experience and American Art’ Conference, organised by Professor David Peters Corbett (Courtauld) and Professor Alexander Nemerov (Stanford University), March 2018.

Other Academic Activity