Defining "queer" has garnered a lot of attention lately. As The New York Times Magazine columnist Jenna Wortham recently mused, "'queer' has come to serve as a linguistic catch-all for this broadening spectrum of identities, so much so that people who consider themselves straight, but reject heteronormativity, might even call themselves queer. But when everyone can be queer, is anyone?”
This is one question of many driving Yale University School of Art’s current exhibition Queering Space. The group show was organized by nine current Yale School of Art students—Loren Britton, Shikeith Cathey, Christie DeNizio, Erik Freer, Jonathan Payne, Asad Pervaiz, Res, Buzz Slutzky and Erica Wessmann—and features work by 55 artists, including Rashaad Newsome, Rin Johnson, Troy Michie, and Erik Lamar Wallace II, alongside current Yale MFA students.
“Queering Space is the first queer show at the Yale School of Art,” painter Loren Britton and photographer Res tell The Creators Project in a joint statement. “This show began from a desire to question and make queerness visible. In deciding to pursue the show, we began to question how queerness was framed, both within this institution and historically within the art circles we participated in. We then expanded the curatorial team to complicate the authority of the curatorial voice; to encompass a wide range of queer experiences and art-making."
By bringing together what curator, sculptor, and photographer Shikeith Cathey calls “a multiplicity of processes, identities, and histories,” Queering Space presents mostly micro-visions of sexual liberation. Devin Morris’ video collage work ...Where Salvation Is depicts a black marionette exploring the fluidity and limitations of constructed identities and the built environment. Angela Dufrense’s Unicorn and Benjamin Fredrickson’s Folsom Street East 2015 explore what it means to “look” queer right now. Davion Alston’s Another Body of/for Work, in which the artist emulates a Juergen Teller portrait of Kim Kardashian, explores the racial and sexual implications surrounding cultural labor and body politics.
Anna Campbell’s Vanishing Point comments on the history and potential of queer spaces. Her sculpture, comprised of a balloon tied to balsa wood, “establishes its own horizon that references the seedy pleasures associated with boardwalks, generally, and the specific cruising grounds of the Christopher Street Pier."
“That pier has, for the last two decades, become an increasingly contested site. The interests of generations of queer youth of color who have congregated there conflict with [those of] the property owners of gentrifying developments, whose resources have been put to use in enforcing a curfew for this otherwise public space. The silver mylar balloon that floats above, or droops over, the pier reads as a sign of celebration but an inherently ephemeral one,” Campbell says.
“As curators, we really wanted to show the plurality of queerness and how that takes form within individual art practices,” MFA student Jonathan Payne, a first year in the school’s painting program, says. “The queer community is so large—particularly when intersectional identities such as race, socioeconomic status, and gender identity are taken into consideration. So we avoided specificity and really strove to curate a show that was inclusive of different forms and ideas about queerness."
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Queering Space is on view at the Yale University School of Art through October 28. For more information, click here.