Many Sides Of ‘QUEER’: Fenix explores identity in new exhibit

Many Sides Of ‘QUEER’: Fenix explores identity in new exhibit
MONICA HOOPER
mhooper@nwadg.com


After their show “Pronouns” helped many to celebrate being completely themselves, Fenix Arts Board members Laurie Foster and Pat Hennon felt inspired by the reaction to the show.

“We were just blown away by the response, not only from the artists who felt like they had a voice suddenly, but by the people that came in to look at the show. It felt like there were some connections made,” explains Foster, Board president for Fenix Arts. She says that she and Hennon, who helped curate that show, wanted to expand upon the ideas and energy spurred by their first exhibit at Fenix’s new home at Mount Sequoyah. “We were terrified at first and said, ‘No, we can’t do that.’ But we kind of got our nerve up.”

Having never put on a regional art show, they navigated a call for entries with the help of Taylor Johnson, gallery manager, to create “QUEER,” an LGBTQIA+ artists’ activation and exhibition juried by Brad Cushman from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The exhibit aims to “give voice to this under-represented population to share their stories and dreams.” Artists participating in the exhibit hail from Texas, Mississippi, Kansas — and other places that aren’t always considered inclusive.

“The art is very diverse,” says Foster. “There’s a lot of portraits in this, and they are really cool. They are proud people in whatever guise they are doing their portraits. They are showing that they are good with how they are and who they are, and we need to be too.”

Hennon adds that viewers will see a variety of queer lifestyles.

“It is nice to see the similar representations with pride of strength, of overcoming adversity, of diversity, of weirdness, queerness, strangeness — all of those things. … In Fayetteville, in the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of community gathering places like Backspace shut down or turned into something else that is a little more commercial or private, so there’s not many places left that queer art can be freely shown and accepted,” Johnson says. “I can create those safe spaces.”

“We’re in a regression phase [with politicians] trying to legislate how parents provide medical care for their children and trying to legislate how women deal with their bodies,” Foster adds. “We need to step up and say, ‘No.’”

“We’re queer, we’re here,” Hennon adds.

“QUEER” will also feature a discussion panel on June 3.

“Jacqueline Froelich has agreed to be our moderator. She did the trans panel when we had that last year, and it was just really wonderful,” Foster says. She and Hennon say that they estimate that around 16 artists will take part in the panel with Froelich.

“There’s an experimental piece that has an all-queer cast and there are, I believe, 10 people and it’s about diversity within the arts,” Hennon adds. The lineup includes musicians, poets, performance artists and visual artists, among them Hennon, Abby Howard, Kate Capdeville, Bethany Douglas, Jewel Hayes, Lela Besom, Deanna Starshine, Skylar Conover, Täs Zinck and Lauren Leonard. Hennon explains that “including the different genres of creativity — art, music, dance and spoken word — it’s going to be like a weaving. The title of it is ‘Warp and Weft,’ about the ‘different threads of a tapestry when you’re working on a loom,’” Hennon adds. It is scheduled for July 16.

“We all belong in society. And that’s really the point of all of this work — being seen, being heard and being understood, being accepted as everyday people. There has to be that word ‘normal,’ and we’re all normal,” Hennon says.

Also part of the “QUEER” exhibit is “An Intimate Evening with Willi Carlisle,” planned for July 23. It will include a one-act play by the poet and folk musician. “In my experience, whatever Willi does is pretty cool,” Foster enthuses.

“I hope people get in touch with the pain of what it takes to be an outsider,” and the experience of being “excluded many times from opportunities that more mainstream people have easier access to. So I hope people get in touch with their feelings and are able to talk about them when we have these different opportunities to talk, so we can talk with them and thank them for sharing their pain, fears or whatever. I hope it will draw into a meaningful conversation for everybody,” Hennon adds.

“I like that we named the show ‘QUEER’ because it used to be a derogatory term — a slur if you will — but now it’s an accepted umbrella term that has come full circle back to its original meaning of weird, strange, and encompasses all of these different identities, genders, sexualities,” Johnson says. “And so I want people to come in and feel a little queer — to realize that their difference, their self-expression, and what Pat said — their pain‚ is part of that queer struggle or that queer identity. We all have that in us, whether we’re straight, white, cis, this or that — it’s all kind of the same. It’s just got a different lens to it. So I hope people come in and feel a little queer.”

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FAQ

‘QUEER’

WHEN — June 2-July 30; hours are 1-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday & noon-6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Fenix Arts, 150 W. Skyline Drive in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — 530-6023, fenixarts.org

FYI — Foster says that there will be some nudity in the artworks presented in the exhibit.

Categories: Galleries