Paul Donald, <em>twinchaisetendrils(smallyellow)</em>, 2008.

But Donald’s work isn’t striving to cross these boundaries, for that would reify a conceptual schema toward which he is at best indifferent. As with many practioners of a modest mode of art, his work acknowledges no polarity between a thing and its status as art. Nothing is really transformed in his work, for transformation is an act of accomplishment, a clean movement between states. Donald’s art consistently denies that ontological leap; his sculptures refuse to be other than what they are—insistently hand-worked paper. As totems of an in-between state, indecideably drifting between assorted, seemingly opposed identities and ontologies (paper/sculpture, surface/mass, design/art, cheap/valuable, temporary/permanent, and stasis/transformation are but a few) they suddenly assume the weight of metaphor: these little sculptures are queer. Not queer in the ordinary language sense of homosexual, for that is, like Hirst’s shark, merely another form of being. N o, they’re queer in that they act as solvent to a culture of polarity, to those binarisms premised on inclusion or exclusion to larger categories of being. Donald’s Drift instead drifts between states like some ideal polymorphous perversion, neither one thing nor another, putting pressure on the very naturalization of the categorical itself. Yet even that formulation seems too insistent, too coherent. Donald might lavish his fragile, small-scale paper works with the care and attention generally accorded big statements, but the results seem to slip off his efforts with a shrug. They drift, unmoored.

Jonathan D. Katz teaches and writes on gender and sexuality in modern and contemporary art, especially of the Cold War era. He is co-curating an October 2010 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery entitled Hide/Seek: Discovering Lesbian and Gay American Portraiture that will be the first major museum exploration of queerness in American art.

Further Reading