Stanislaus State Queer Art Collective Exhibition 2020 - 3D virtual exhibition by Stan State University Art Galleries

Stanislaus State Queer Art Collective Exhibition 2020

Thu, 05/21/2020 to Fri, 08/21/2020

curated by:

1. A band of colors, as seen in a rainbow, produced by separation of the components of light by their different degrees of refraction according to wavelength.
2. Used to classify something, or suggest that it can be classified, in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme or opposite points.

Understood better today more than ever, especially among young people, is the idea of the gender spectrum. This idea deviates from the antiquated view that gender is constructed as the binary of masculine and feminine or has anything to do with one’s sex assigned at birth. Although identities concerning gender often begin with the assignment of sex at birth, gender is a fluid and complex component of one’s identity. This complex identity, intimate and unique to each person, often is influenced by societal norms and expectations. These norms and expectations are changing, however, and because of this flux, people are able to express their identities more freely than ever before. Another component of gender, which will be a theme seen throughout many of the works presented here, is the relation of gender to the body. This does not necessarily mean one’s relationship to assigned sex, but the relation of outward identity expression through the vessel of the body itself.
Through the expression of artists who have passed through the doors of the Art Department at Stan State, we can see the beautiful, complex, wide-ranging elements of gender. Gender is personal to each individual and should be celebrated for its uniqueness and intimate nature. Let this catalog stand as a testament to the growing diversity of the twenty-first century and may our differences unite us in solidarity with progress.

-Kera Bruce

Transitions: Invisible to Visible, Voiceless to Heard

Staci Gem Scheiwiller, Adviser

In February 2019, artist and then-student Humberto Maldonado came to me about establishing a “Queer Art Collective” (QAC) specifically within the Art Department at Stan State. The goal was to give Art students, who identified as queer, a safe space to have a voice in a community that implicitly silenced them. Since my hire in 2011, the department itself did not really have a support system for LGBTQ+ Art majors despite some encouraging staff and faculty, as well as one or two campus entities outside the department, such as Love Evolution and the LGBTQ+ Mentorship Program. Most often, however, Art students throughout the years have learned to keep their expressions limited or veiled, resulting in profound self-censorship and self-surveillance, both of which are counter to the creative process. In addition to the typical stresses that come with critiques, BFA reviews, and class paper presentations, queer students always had to brace themselves emotionally for the worst, anticipating muffled insults whispered within the room and answering audience questions that were born out of ignorance.
This idea that Maldonado had of “providing space” for one to speak is incredibly embedded within the discourses of Queer art. Historically, “discovering” a modern history of Queer art has been difficult to maneuver, in part due to this voiceless-ness, despite the greatest artists one studies in Art History were often fluid in their sexual expressions, and several artists in question were even openly gay, such as Andy Warhol (1928-87). In some ways, a history of sexuality is difficult to trace since gender and sexual identities were expressed slightly differently throughout the centuries; thus, the language was coded in a way that perhaps cannot be read so easily in a twenty-first century context. Yet when reading about nineteenth-century artists, such as Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907), Emma Stebbins (1815-82), and John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), it seems like all their contemporaries knew that they were gay. In my own subfield of nineteenth-century photography, however, reading gender and sexuality codes always leaves a void of uncertainty, but I have always argued that nineteenth-century viewers knew those codes well, even if we do not know them now. So why is there a disconnect?
Certainly, as thoroughly explained by Foucault (1976), the Victorian project actively suppressed sexuality in general, but in particular, sexual and gender expressions that did not fall within heterosexual gender binaries. This Victorian obsessiveness with controlling the body, which was a global project, was coupled with turn-of-the century psychoanalysis that framed homosexuality as a perversion and mental illness that could be possibly cured, which Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) admitted later that probably a “cure” was not possible (1920). For centuries, homosexual men had to be discreet due to anti-sodomy laws, but these coupled with the changes in viewing sexuality through such narrow lenses during the beginning of the twentieth century, one’s life was in danger. This is not to imply that prior to was some sort of utopic era—for instance, certainly, Edmonia Lewis’ trial (1862) was not only racially motivated but also homophobic, because she was a lesbian (two women accused her of giving them Spanish Fly, a sexual aphrodisiac). But if ever there were a lethal stranglehold that silenced queer expressions and identities, it was toward the end of the nineteenth century. It was a moment in time when a lot queer coding in artistic expression was loss that is slowly in the process of being recovered, and this moment set a stage when particular expressions presented in veiled or implied ways became a “normalized” approach to survive and to persist despite social and legal discriminations.
Currently, the QAC is a group of 18 active student artists housed in the Art Department, and last year, they held a successful show at the Stan State Art Space entitled “Explorations of Queer Identities” (June-July 2019). Maldonado had written and presented the exhibition proposal to the Art Department faculty, and later, then-student and Art History major Stephanie Jacinto teamed up with him and became a major player in realizing the project. Hence, through the QAC’s meetings, fundraisers, events, and first art show, the collective has been instrumental in raising Queer awareness in the department, in Turlock, and on campus. Their efforts are indeed historic. The Queer alumni have even noted that they wish the QAC had been around when they were attending Stan State. In reflecting on my former students who were out then, they faced tremendous loneliness and hardship. Students now are feeling safer to express themselves in artwork, in the classroom, and in their everyday lives, albeit the struggles for social and political equality are far from over. The Transgender Military Ban was implemented in 2019; former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (b. 1982) endured homophobia during his campaign (one woman even attempted to rescind her caucus vote for him when she found out he was gay); and the New York Times signaled that the alarming number of transgender persons murdered during 2019 was becoming an “epidemic” (9/27/2019). This list does not include the discriminations that individual states implement as law, such as Idaho’s 2020 ban on transgender girls and women from playing female sports (House Bill 500), as well as Idaho’s 2020 ban on transgender persons changing their genders on their birth certificates (House Bill 509). Furthermore, 2019-2020 did not allude to progress but to a deterioration of rights and socio-political equality for LGBTQ+ communities.
It is astounding and frightening how rights, freedoms, and laws that promote socio-political equality can be taken away so quickly, and the mainstream heteronormative society does nothing—says nothing. The LGBTQ+ communities have not been silent on these injustices—mainstream heteronormative society does not want to listen and has not historically listened, because cisgender heterosexuals think gay rights do not impact them. The prose poem “First They Came…” (1946) by Martin Niemöller rings true that when various groups in society are politically targeted, made vulnerable, and have their rights consistently infringed on, leading to a downward spiral— these actions not only result in a total persecution of one particular group but also of many groups who do not lie within the centers of power. In this way, LGBTQ+ rights are human rights, and these rights are the litmus test of a free society. And because of these political setbacks for LGBTQ+ communities, this is why it is so imperative that queer voices be heard and continue to be heard. We cannot repeat the past. For the QAC, it has only been one year, but already the collective has dramatically changed the culture in both the Art department and at Stan State in such positive, wide-reaching ways. The work they do and put on display is brave, critical, thought-provoking, and extremely vital in such a political climate that could silence them at any moment.

more exhibitions of Stan State University Art Galleries

Stan State University Art Galleries

2020 Stan State BFA & BA Graduating Seniors

20 May 2020 to 20 Aug 2020

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