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SCENE IN THE 1930S: LEFT BANK ON THE BAYOU
In the 1930s Houston had a small but vigorous - even avant-garde - arts scene, perhaps surprising in a small-ish Southern city better known for generating fortunes from oil and lumber than for supporting art. But even more surprising - queer artists, musicians, writers and theater people were an integral and even accepted (if tacitly so) part of that scene.
Art Digest, surveying Texas art in 1936, called Gene Charlton (1909-1979) and Carden Bailey (1911-1997), a couple for 15 years starting in the early 30s, "The most progressive artists in Houston today " Along with their fellow queer artist, Forrest Bess (1911-1977), they formed the core of a modernist art group that would have been advanced at the time even in New York City.
Queer women were
part of the scene as well. Artist Emily Langham
Many of the younger queer artists coalesced around theater dynamo Margo Jones (1911-1955) and her Houston Community Players. Jones, whose own sexuality is unclear, went on to found the professional regional theater movement and to produce Tennessee Williams plays on Broadway. In addition to artists Charlton and Bailey, queer (and possibly queer) writers William Goyen (1915-1983), William Hart (1916-1986) and Zoe Leger (1900-1990) worked with Jones during her time in Houston.
These queer artists
and their straight colleagues consciously thought of the world they
were creating as a Little Bohemia - a Left Bank on the Bayou. They were
fully aware that they might be skirting "danger" with their
edgy work and their unconventional lifestyles.
Click for More on the 1930s Houston gay scene