Sep 15, 2016

Cleonike: Gay Illustrator of the Jazz Age

Cleo Damianakes, aka Cleo Wilkins, aka Cleonike, aka Cleon (1895-1979) was an artist and illustrator of the Jazz Age.  Born in Berkeley, she studied at the University of California, and then moved to Hollywood.

During the 1920s, she was consigned to illustrating the covers of many jazz age classics, including 3 Hemingways, an F. Scott Fitzgerald, a Zelda Fitzgerald, and 2 Conrad Aikens.  Later she moved to New York.

90% of her works feature butch, muscular women with biceps and abs.  Even where they are out of place, as in this cover of The Sun Also Rises, which has nothing to do with ancient Greek women in togas.

 A few butch muscular men appear alongside the buffed women.

You probably know Conrad Aiken only from the horrible short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," but he also wrote horrible novels.

Occasionally Cleonike gives us some androgynous characters that could go either way, as in this cover to Saturday Afternoon by Marion Strobel (a famous poet of the day).

But Cleonike's interest definitely resides in big, butch, muscular women.

Why does this person not appear on the list of great lesbian artists?   She was married twice, to Richard Oliver and then to Richard Wilkins, but how is that relevant?  She liked what she liked.

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