Secrecy and suppression were a normal part of Ryan Hawk’s life before he came out six years ago. At his latest art exhibit, Hawk hopes to highlight how LGBT artists navigate these challenges in everyday life.
Queer Terrortories will open this Friday, Nov. 18 at the Visual Arts Center and is curated by Hawk, a studio art graduate student. The exhibit will include costumed stage performances, photography and video installations all exploring LGBT identities. Among the artists featured are members of The Highest Closet, an artist collective that specializes in queer narratives and aesthetics.
“All of the artists in the show choose to make art in very specific ways,” Hawk said. “The artists in the show have all chosen to address certain issues that relate to their lived experience in a larger kind of social and cultural landscape, and that takes courage.”
The exhibit is being put on through Center Space Project, a gallery operated by undergraduate fine arts majors. The group approved Hawk’s proposal for a queer-identity-related exhibit in April.
“He really tried to reach out and get a wide variety of voices for the show,” said Dana Suleymanova, a studio art junior and programming officer for Center Space Project. “I’m really excited about that. I think it’s really important, specifically right now, to hear a lot of these people and what they have to say.”
While planning, Hawk said he realized he wanted to include varying viewpoints amongst the artists featured in the exhibit to capture the many struggles of queer-identity politics.
“It wasn’t so much of a search for me as much as a realization,” Hawk said. “It’s all work that I had seen or been exposed to in some way … And it felt really important to break the homogeny and ensure that there were a multitude of perspectives.”
Despite having a hand in approving Hawk’s exhibit proposal, Suleymanova hasn’t had a chance to view some of the art yet. Still, she said she thinks audience members might feel a little uneasy with the way queer identity is plainly displayed.
“A lot of times, queer people have to hide things about themselves,” Suleymanova said. “So seeing a whole show of a lot of people totally not being apologetic about who they are … I think might make people uncomfortable because it’s not what they’re used to seeing.”
All the artists in the show are part of the LGBT spectrum. Creighton Baxter, a member of Highest Closet, plans to perform a work called “Untitled (Until Niagara Falls).” She said the performance is fairly quiet and has two potential outcomes depending on the atmosphere Friday night. During the performance, she covers and uncovers several images that are “part litany, part testimony and part love letter” with sugar and saliva for over two hours, according to her website.
“Depending on the crowd [and how] the night is will decide what happens for me,” Baxter said. “A lot of what I’m interested in my work is creating pieces that speak to unspeakability … If something catastrophic happens, it can feel unspeakable because of this lack of language we have culturally to talk about those things.”
Hawk hopes the viewers see the array of people and identities around the world shown in the works performed.
“I hope that viewers upon leaving the show will consider a new level of sensitivity in engaging bodies in social spaces and appreciating varying perspectives and ideologies,” Hawk said. “In that, people who identify as queer — marginalized people — are not going anywhere.”