Volume 14: Queer Life at Black Mountain College

Editors' Note
The Lost Issue

It was the last day of summer in 2019 when I stood at the brownish green waters of Lake Eden near the dining hall. Just the day before I had presented my paper, Talking in Code: Queer Life At and After Black Mountain College, to a very small audience during the very last session of the ReViewing Conference. The events that led me up to this moment did not prepare me for what was unfolding in front of me and the small handful of others who knew what was going on. We were gathered around the lake in memorial, united by a common interest in Black Mountain College. But as I stood there and listened to and took in what was going on, I knew that I was witnessing a benchmark in my research. The man whose ashes were being scattered into the lake before me had likely stood here and looked out at the lake that was now beginning to cloud as mud and gray powder mixed with the cool water.

When I began researching the queer history and legacy of Black Mountain in 2018, no full-scale exploration of the subject existed (or exists for that matter). Articles and papers may allude to an artist’s sexuality and partners in work and in bed, but few tied queerness to Black Mountain. It was almost solely mentioned only in regards to practices and lives that evolved after Black Mountain in cities like New York and San Francisco. (Surely only the coastal elites could be queer, not anyone in the rural South during the 1930s-’50s. Definitely not). Only now is attention finally being paid to the ways in which queer people have been influenced by and influence Appalachia. This is not something new, but as is the case for any person or story on the margins, our non-inclusion in histories and movements is deliberate.

Right before my very eyes I was seeing a queer history dissipate. As Michael Rumaker’s ashes melded with the lake before me I knew that the stories I was trying to tell and the histories I was trying to uncover, connect, and preserve were more important than I ever could have imagined. So much can be said about the magic of a queer Black Mountain, and this volume of the journal only scratches the surface of a much deeper and richer history. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I have been given to create a forum for these stories to be written and recorded.

I never imagined this volume could have been published, let alone at this scale and with work of such caliber, but here it is. I did not think our call for proposals would garner any submissions, destined to be the lost volume. But we, all of the wonderful folks who submitted work, who are reading this now, and who will continue to engage with this subject after you close this tab—we are a Queer Black Mountain, expounding upon the no longer under-recognized moment in time. This research disrupts not only the narrative of Black Mountain College history, but it also changes the course of art history forever.

– Ant M Lobo-Ladd, Guest Editor

Table of Contents

Thomas E. Frank + Carissa Pfeiffer, Co-Editors
Ant M Lobo-Ladd, Guest Editor
Kira Houston, Production Editor

Published September 2023

Cover Image: Community gathering to announce the closing of Black Mountain College, early October, 1956. Photographer unknown but likely Dita Frauenglass. Photograph previously published in Eugen Blume, Catherine Nichols, Matilda Felix, and Gabriele Knapstein, editors, Black Mountain: An Interdisciplinary Experiment 1933–1957, pp. 442-3.

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