According to the historian David J. Getsy, to nominate something as “queer” is to cast aspersion on it as being unnatural, incorrect, wrong, or abnormal. Anything called “queer” is looked at with suspicion and intensified scrutiny... As the most visible and mobile manifestation of the policing of the boundaries of the “normal,” the “natural,” and “common” sense, the label “queer” was historically used to tyrannize those who loved, desired, or lived differently. When lesbian, gay, and bisexual activists and thinkers rejected the presumption that they should assimilate and aspire to be merely tolerated, they embraced “queer” as a rallying cry. They upheld as a virtue their failure to fit into the normal. While the label “queer” is often associated with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and/or gender non conforming, the concept in the context of the makers featured in this exhibition is intersectional in that they explore a multitude of identities, ideas and craft traditions by creating works that may appear peculiar looking, feeling or functioning in their explorations of craft materials as well as topics that range from feminism, gender identity, queer visibility, ethnicity, immigration, sexuality, history, and politics.
The implication of queer peculiarity applied to the construction of otherness offers a simultaneous burden and an opportunity for each of these artists who come to their work with unique lived experiences and perspectives. The immigrant experience offers one way of seeing society through the lens of belonging or not. Juana Valdes explores her lived experiences and observations about migration as a complex process, constructing history through a continuum that involves the personal journey of the Afro-Cuban diasporic community into a new homeland. Her work examines craft materials and methods and in several of her works, she traces the post-colonial history of the Americas and the intercontinental trade in people and porcelain. Lu Zhang is an artist, born in Xian, China, who lives and works in New York. Her ceramic constructions of computers and tablets explore her sense of living between cultures. The roughly modeled ceramic rendering of video chats with her family in China reflect the experience of being in two cultures at once, but not quite fitting into either.
Artists Koren Christofides, and Roxanne Jackson explore ideas of female power with a sense of humor and fantastic forms modeled and manipulated out of clay and other media. Their creative explorations often touch upon human nature as seen through the lens of magic, mythology, and proverbs about women.
Greg Climer’s series of quilts inverts the traditional methods for quilt construction by creating the fabric fragments rather than upcycling scraps. He has been working with digital tools to compose larger abstractions of intimate, poignant and sometimes transgressive portraits of queer people. Fashion designer Edmund Green Langdell is creating a platform that seeks to uplift the health and wellbeing of transgender people through the creation of hand made crochet or needle felted packers designed to affirm the silhouette in apparel for transgedner people. Brian Kenny’s multidisciplinary works explore autobiographical themes of his queer identity, shifting societal perceptions about gender, sexuality and politics. His banners are composed of a patchwork of sports jerseys and vinyl advertisements pieced together to celebrate exuberant expressions of the masculine queer gaze. Timo Rissanen explores craft through cross-stiched poetry, and memory resulting in works that reflect upon his lived experiences of discrimination as a gay man as well as celebrations of desire and reflections upon the objectified body.
Vick Quezada’s projects explore the material histories and consciousness of Indigenous- Latinx hybridity within Western culture. They use a variety of media, and performances embodying ancient Nahuan rites to simultaneously make the obscured visible. Their work in this exhibition uses smoke-fired terracotta to create a series of prison cafeteria trays, reflecting upon the humble platform for countless shared meals of millions of imprisoned people. Their artifacts, delineate inherent systems of power and subjectivity in the Americas, while transgressing “official” historical accounts.
Most queer people face the daily challenge of being their authentic self in societies that often are indifferent or openly hostile to them. In response to notions of visibility Andrew Cornell Robinson’s ceramic and mixed media sculptures explore historical customs as a metaphor for queer-baiting and conformity. His Jamon Jamon series is inspired by the medieval Spanish tradition of offering ham to house guests. This customary form of hospitality may seem commonplace today, but its historical roots come from a desire to sniff out heresy during the inquisition when the pious were looking for expressions of distaste in response to the offer of sliced pork. His use of butchered cuts of ham serve as a metaphor about being “suspected”, and “queer-baited” as a gay man. The sculptures are modeled, cast, and camouflaged with inlaid surface glazes, printed images and hidden messages.
Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s work centers around violence, loss and memory. Phoenix uses porcelain and stoneware to create sculptures that are based on extensive historical research about violence, hate crimes, and queer histories. Her unique explorations of events and artifacts focus on members of queer communities. Some examples include her porcelain casts of weapons used in hate-crimes, and others include artifacts that serve as evidence of queer lives lived. “I have discovered that the everyday objects that are left behind create an instant memorial.” The works included in this queer and peculiar exhibition ask how we might imagine, make, live and see differently.
The Clemente Abrazo Interno Gallery 107 Suffolk Street, New York, NY 10002. www.theclementecenter.org
Dec 5, 2019 through Jan 18, 2020. On view Wed - Sun 12-7pm.
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Queer + Peculiar Craft is curated by Fred Frelinghuysen Presents and Andrew C. Robinson.
Support for this exhibition is provided by The Clemente, and the Arts + Crafts Research Studio.