Concerns about representation and space continue to be on the forefront of on-campus discussions and not just within Yale College.
On Friday, “Queering Space” held its closing reception in the Green Hall gallery at the Yale School of Art. The show is the first exhibit at Yale to focus entirely on queer culture, raising questions about queerness within the Yale School of Art and beyond.
“We wanted queer, specifically the idea of ‘queering’ to take up space, acknowledge and transform the institutional memory of the Green Gallery space and create a space for the conversations that we believe are a necessary part of the Yale School of Art experience,” the show’s curatorial team said in a joint statement to the News.
The idea for the gallery emerged a year ago, when graduate students Res ART ’17 and Loren Britton ART ’17 pitched the project to the Yale School of Art administration. In July, the show was approved and the curatorial team expanded to include students from every department within the art school. One artist was invited from the queer community in New York to represent voices from outside the Yale community. The nine curators, each of whom had equal authority in the planning process, included Britton, Res, Shikeith Cathey ART ’18, Christie DeNizio ART ’17, Erik Freer ART ’17, Johnathan Payne ART ’18, Asad Pervaiz ART ’17, Buzz Slutzky and Erica Wessmann ART ’17.
Although the team said it had multiple goals in mind for this exhibition, they felt that its actual results were often unexpected and rewarding. They hoped that the gallery would lead to wider conversations about queer culture and raise questions about how individuals and communities engage with notions of queerness, the statement said, as well as where and how it may reside within institutions.
“Ultimately we hope that by queering space at Yale, we have created a precedent for future students to find, express and make visible the conversations that need to be included within institutional spaces,” the team said. “To queer space is to subvert the framework already in place in order to imagine new possibilities.”
While some of the 60 featured artists were affiliated with Yale, others were locally based within Connecticut, from other U.S. states and also Canada.
Geoffrey Chadsey, a New York City-based artist whose drawing was featured in the show, said that the exhibit encapsulated what it meant to be queer through its diversity. Chadsey is part of a network of artists who had worked with one another prior to the show through the Queer Art Mentorship program. For him, the show was significant in its effort to capture the nuances of the term “queer” and bring together its various connotations.
The word “queer” can take on multiple meanings depending on perspective or context, Chadsey said. He emphasized that the non-gender specific term can be almost aspirational, something that one can claim for themselves but must work at to fully embody.
“[The variety of mediums] well served the intent of the exhibition to share voices of queer artists and queer experiences,” said Caroline Tisdale ’18, an attendee. “To me, it emphasized the fact that there are infinite ways to express queerness in art, or in general, for that matter.”
In addition to issues of sexual preference, the exhibit grappled with the intersection between race and gender. Ely Kim ART ’10, whose featured work included a video entitled “Not Into Asian,” said that his piece was as much about increasing Asian representation through videography as it was a commentary on racial stereotyping on dating and hookup apps.
Similarly, Tisdale said that she felt the exhibition was able to successfully engage the viewer with these themes through the featured artworks’ wide range of physical scales which pushed the boundaries of how voices could be showcased in the gallery.
“What is often defended as ‘just a preference’ is actually a wholly racist statement that diminishes someone’s personhood to just their race,” Kim said. “I wanted to embody a number of gay tropes. Some stereotypes attached to gay Asian males and some stereotypically not attached to Asian males. I want to show that because I’m Asian, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be femme, or masculine, a bear or a twink, or all of these things at once.”
The gallery ran from Oct. 8 to 28.