To thine own self be true: Fenix exhibit, ‘Transfigure,’ explores queer identity outside of the big city

To thine own self be true: Fenix exhibit, ‘Transfigure,’ explores queer identity outside of the big city

When speaking to Amber Imbrie, who curated “Transfigure: Transformation As A Revolutionary Act,” the latest exhibit at Fenix Arts, it’s clear the artist was intentional about every detail of the show from selecting the exhibitors to the positioning of each piece within the gallery space on the campus of Mount Sequoyah Center in Fayetteville.

The works in the show range from one traditional ceramic sculpture, a bust titled “Forged in Flame” by CJ Carter, to fragmented found art pieces and collages by Eureka Springs-based artist John Rankine, to the surreal and vibrant inkjet prints from Anna Guyton’s photos that weave together imagery and — at times — the physical photos themselves. Throughout the gallery are colorful multifaceted quilts by Coovain Devin and sensual and dreamlike back-and-white photography by Anna Culpepper. In another space, the viewer may take in the diaphanous works of Rachel Trusty with photos layered and manipulated on cut silk.

Nearby, an interactive piece by writer/director David Wayne Reed invites the viewer to look at themselves while listening to the artist’s personal mantra — the way he builds himself up before facing a world that sometimes tells him that he doesn’t have the right to exist.

“As a curator, I was primarily looking for compelling work from artists who were living and primarily from noncoastal places,” Imbrie explains. For this exhibit, they wanted to avoid metronormativity — a term coined by author J. Jack Halberstam — which assumes that cities are better for LGBTQIA+ people to thrive than rural spaces.

For Imbrie, an artist who was raised off-the-grid in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, it was important to highlight identities not based on city dwellers or any sort of stereotypical ideas of what queerness is.

“I was really looking at people who were approaching their identity and this idea of transformation from an alternative standpoint, and that was not one that was embedded in the city or in these different kinds of icons and historical cannons to which the narrative of who is gay and what gayness looks like and how does gayness survive and thrive in our country. This show was kind of a counterpoint to that, looking at it from a different perspective.”

Imbrie says that new artists and established creatives are displayed alongside one another — with a couple of the artists exhibiting for the first time in a gallery.

“I feel like people at all different levels of their career make brilliant, fantastic art,” Imbrie says. Requiring all the artists to be on the same “level” places an unnecessary limitation on the scope of the exhibit.

“When we bring in perspectives that are from a variety of different education levels and experience levels, we get unique insights into those lived experiences that get lost as we train further into our careers,” Imbrie says.

“So the simplicity of painting your partner reading sometimes gets lost in the over-theorizing and over-conceptualizing of an artist who is further in their practice,” Imbrie adds in reference to a painting by young artist Josh Oldham.

Imbrie hopes that “Transfigure: Transformation As A Revolutionary Act,” helps expand the idea of who is queer, what queer people look like, and what kind of art is created by queer artists. She was careful to make sure that the show didn’t exploit queer and trans bodies, which is something often seen in exhibits intended for the LGBTQIA+ community.

“Through the process of transformation when we come out as gay, we realize that so much of what we’ve been told of how we’re supposed to be is just a socially constructed narrative that we’re supposed to follow,” Imbrie says. “We’re then able to see all the ways that the socially constructed narratives limit our lives and the way that we’re able to connect with each other, and the way that we’re able to make alternative family bonds.”



‘Transfigure: Transformation As A Revolutionary Act’

WHAT — A juried exhibition that features work by Anna Guyton, Rachel Trusty, Arden Carlson, Sandrine Schaefer, Coorain Devin, John Rankine, Anna Culpepper, Brianna Peterson, Pat Hennon, David Wayne Reed, Josh Oldham, CJ Carter, Halee Pratcher and Hannah McBroom.

WHEN — Until July 14; galley hours are 1-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 1-4 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Fenix Arts at Mount Sequoyah, 150 N. Skyline Drive in Fayetteville

COST — Free




Pride Festival

The Northwest Arkansas Pride Festival is Big Freedia big now.

The New Orleans Bounce Queen headlines the 20th anniversary of NWA Pride that will also include performances by “Drag Race” stars Plasma, Kylie Sonique Love and more than two dozen local queer entertainers.

The annual Trans March starts at 5:30 p.m. June 28 down Block Avenue from Dickson Street to the Fayetteville square. Trans Fest follows.

The Pride Festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 29 on Dickson Street. The Youth Zone will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. inside the Fayetteville Town Center on the square. Big Freedia performs at 3:30 p.m. on the Tyson Main Stage behind Bordinos. Then the 20th anniversary NWA Pride Parade promenades down Dickson Street at 5 p.m.

The annual Glitterville party features Plasma, Kylie Sonique Love, Maddy Morphosis (one of our People To Watch in 2022), Axel Andrews, DJ Tyler Moore and Arkansas entertainers Taylor Madison Monroe, Ella Rosa and the reigning Miss Gay Arkansas, Vanessa Rayne. It starts at 9 p.m. June 29 at George’s Majestic Lounge. Tickets are $25 and were marked as a “sell-out risk” as of press time.

The Hi Tea Dance & Pool Party returns to Mount Sequoyah from noon to 6 p.m. June 30 to close out the weekend festivities. Advanced tickets close on June 28, but limited general admission entry will be available at the gate. General admission is $40 with $25 late gate opening at 2:30 p.m. June 30.

Find information and tickets at

Categories: Galleries