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Queer State(s)

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A new exhibit opens this week at UT’s Visual Arts Center in partnership with the Gender and Sexuality Center and the Queer Students Alliance which explores the ways in which Texas artists queer gender identity and the performance of sexuality through visual representation. Queer State(s) is a multimedia exhibit, curated by Noah Simblist with David Willburn, and includes video, performance, photography, painting, and sculpture from several artists who have a connection to Texas.

There was an idea of looking at this very vibrant culture of artists who are making work that were really engaging with a queer sexuality in a very open and forthright way; and in a way that would be taken seriously and not sort of hidden or closeted in any kind of way,” says curator Noah Simblist when asked about the origins of the exhibit. “That’s on an interior level,” he continues and adds “but to an outside audience, places like New York or L.A.– to push against cliches, assumptions about what Texas is all about. That Texas is this Bible Belt, super-conservative place that any LGBTQ person has to just flee from.”

Queer State(s) explores the ways in which Texas artists queer gender identity and the performance of sexuality through visual representation. The term ‘queer’ is not meant to be literal, as in any gay artist in Texas, but rather it is meant to refer to gay, and even straight, artists that in some way engage queer sexuality in their work. “We decided that the work itself was going to be the most important thing,” Simblist tells us, “and that the work itself engaged with queer sexuality so that we weren’t trying to find some sort of lithmus test that someone had to be gay or lesbian to be in the show, there are some people who self-identify as straight but are very clearly engaging in the kind of queer performance of sexuality in their work.” Queer here is meant to refer to a kind of sexuality or gender identity that resists easy classification and exists in a more ambiguous way. “The queerness of the show is located in the work,” he adds.

Queer State(s) examines how artists participate in the performance of queer bodies. We are familiar with this notion in the case of drag kings and queens, but how is queerness evident in other forms? Can it be found in a traditional genre like life drawing or a mainstream form such as fashion photography? Can sexuality be queer when gender roles are reversed but remain straight? Are there ways that gender stereotypes can be pushed so far that they become queer? “This show, by being a group exhibition, was all about multiplicity,” Simblist tells us. “So it’s not about one thing or one way or one iconic image of what being queer is. A queer image, a queer artwork, a queer performance was in some ways fractured into all these different images. And is in someways that was really the premise of the exhibition was to gather a lot of very different kinds of things.”

The lineup of Queer State(s) artists include Ben Aqua, Libby Black, Robert Boland, CHRISTEENE, Thomas Feulmer, Heyd Fontenot, K8 Hardy, Otis Ike and Ivete Lucas, Ivan Lozano, Senalka McDonald, Wura Natasha Ogunji, Richard Patterson, PJ Raval, Adam Shecter, SKOTE (Jill Pangallo and Alex White), Michael Smith, and Jason Villegas. The artists have various relationships to Texas: some were born here and live elsewhere, some are from elsewhere and are recent transplants, and some passed through for various reasons.

The exhibit opens Friday, September 9, 2011 with an Opening Reception for the Fall Season that evening from 6-9 PM at the Visual Art Center in the Art Building at 23rd and Trinity Streets on the University of Texas campus. “The exhibition on the 2nd floor is going to involve photography, video, sculpture installion for a wide group of artist, a wide rage of media,” Simblist says, and continues “then we are going to do the CHRISTEENE performance as an after party at Cheer Up Charlie’s.” The performance by CHRISTEENE will be held at Cheer Up Charlie’s at 1104 East 6th Street after the reception on Friday, September 9, 2011 starting at 10 PM and will be followed by a DJ set by Dylan Reece following the performance.

“We engaged on campus with the Gender and Sexuality Center and The Queer Students Alliance who are doing a set of other programs in mid-October,” Simblist says. “We doing this symposium — a set of lectures and panel discussions that is related to their programming.” Queer State(s): A Symposium will be held Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 10 AM – 5 PM in Room 1.102 of the Art Building. The event is free and open to the public. The symposium will be followed by a reception and book signing for Last Men by Adam Shecter, one of the Queer State(s) artists, at Domy Books at 913 East Cesar Chavez from 5:30 – 7:30 PM.

On Thursday, October 27, 2001, the VAC will host a special screening of select from from Jack Smith with introduction by Dr. Ann Reynolds, associate professor in Art History and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies from 6:30 – 8 PM in Room 1.102 of the Art Building “Jack Smith is this cult figure who was very engaged in the queer community — connected to the Warhol Factory — but isn’t known as well as Warhol,” Simblist says and adds “at the same time, he has become very influential to a lot of other future filmmakers.”

Queer State(s) opens Friday, September 9, 2011 with an Opening Reception starting at 6 PM and will be on exhibit in the Messanine and East Galleries of the Visual Arts Center in the Art Building at 23rd and Trinity Streets on the University of Texas campus until Saturday, November 5, 2011. You can find out more about the Visual Arts Center on the web at www.utvac.org or you can call (512) 471-1108. The exhibit and all the related events are free and open to the public. Generous support for Queer State(s) was provided by the Ford Foundation.

Image: K8 Hardy, “Position Series, Form #19” (2010). Courtesy Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Chase is the founder and Creative Director of therepubliq.com, former host and Executive Producer of OutCast Austin, an award-winning LGBT weekly radio program on KOOP 91.7 FM in Austin. In 2011, he was named the Critics Pick for 'Most Gaybiquitous' in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin. In 2012, CultureMap Austin named him one of Austin's Top LGBT bloggers and he received the AGLCC's Chamber Award for Social Media Diva.

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