Taking a “Pink & Bent” Look at Art

 
 

Racism, sexism and
homophobia preoccupy the work of Lola Flash, a
significant photographer in the generation after JEB who identifies as black
and gay. She includes a self-portrait among the extraordinary palettes and
nuanced expressions in her Epicene selections
on view. The portraits examine boundaries and the blurring of them.

Lola Flash, Self-Portrait

"My experience of
being black and being gay is that people don’t see just that when they see me,"
said Flash, who explained that she observes a little bit of herself in each of
her portrait models. "Above and beyond our ethnicity or our sexuality, we’re
all good people."

Flash described the
purpose of her work as reappropriation: "The idea is to bring to the
forefront images of people that you normally don’t see and to create a
discourse about that."

Since 2003, photographer
Sophia Wallace has fostered conversation about an
unseen segment of the queer community with Bois
and Dykes
, a project about female masculinity that explores the spectrum of
identities from dyke and butch to tomboy, aggressive and transgender.

"For me, it was
really about representing the basic," she said. "I felt acutely a
sense of invisibility about my life as a dyke living in New York City with my
partner. My focus became butchness because I just didn’t see it anywhere."

Sophia Wallace,

Sara, Matthew & Sushi, New York City

Recently, her visual love
letter to butch women and trans men has taken the form of intimate and truthful
portraits displayed in the Pink &
Bent
exhibition.

"A new direction
with my work is artfully constructed portraiture with beautiful lighting,"
Wallace said. Her latest approach produces work that is uncommonly gorgeous but
unquestionably real.

Wallace joined a panel
discussion called "Women in the Arts Speak Out," with wood sculptor
Nancy Azara and painter Heidi Pollard,
moderated by Jennifer Edwards, at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation on May
29. Planned as an accompaniment to Pink
& Bent
, the conversation revealed the practical concerns of queer women
artists seeking to navigate an inhospitable art world. Participants and guests
debated how to set a fair price for work, why more queer artists do not
identify as such, and how to find a space to exhibit.

In an illustration of the
challenges, one gay man in the audience commented on what he perceived as the
lack of sexuality in the exhibition.

"I was really
surprised because there really isn’t that much sexual expression of women,"
he said. He compared it to the more overtly anatomical displays common in gay
male art.

The panelists quickly
enlightened him, making reference to Cora Lambert‘s sexy
image Sapatinho De Cristal,
which represents the dyke aesthetic of a woman wearing men’s briefs.
"I just think there’s
a huge reservoir that’s hidden from view that is our sexuality," cautioned
Pollard, "and that because you can’t see it, no one thinks it’s there."

The panel discussion is
to be followed on June 12 by an event called "COME HEAR! Queer Women Reading Poetry,"
hosted by queer poet and activist Alix Olson and featuring more then a dozen queer women poets, including
Staceyann Chin.

Meanwhile, the opening reception for the exhibition
on May 20 was the largest ever at the gallery, and it has already achieved
notoriety as the lesbian happening of the season.
"It was an art mob
scene," confirmed Angela Jimenez,
whose photographs from a forthcoming book project about the Michigan Womyn’s
Music Festival are displayed in Pink & Bent.

Apparently, inclusion
makes for a compelling exhibition, in addition to a great party.

Pink & Bent can be seen at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in New York City until June 28, 2008. For more on Pink & Bent,
go here.

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