Taking a “Pink & Bent” Look at Art

on

The exhibition Pink & Bent: The Art of Queer Women,

on display at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation in New York City through June 28, delivers a

rare and significant survey of lesbian art and artists from the 1970s through

today.

Pink & Bent features the work of nearly 50 queer and feminist

artists, including notable names such as Judy Chicago,

Harmony Hammond, Phranc,

and Joan E. Biren, and emerging talents including Allyson Mitchell and Maria Tsaguriya. Paintings,

photography, sculpture, drawings and mixed media mingle on the walls, where

they grapple with topics like gender roles,

self-identity, the masculine and the feminine, and self-representation.

If that sounds ambitious,

it’s meant to be.

"I really wanted for

the exhibit in general to be provocative, create questions and stir up thought,"

explained Pilar Gallego, who spearheaded Pink

& Bent
with her co-curator, Cora Lambert. Both of them are also artists

and have works in the exhibition. "We really wanted to make it a

monumental exhibition in terms of being inclusive and having different artists."



Photo: Becca Bradley, Lover

That principle of inclusion

extends into many areas, most obviously the curators’ choice of the open-ended

term "queer" to describe the exhibition. Despite that preference,

another popular word for women who love women appears rather conspicuously in

seven huge wooden letters that spell out "LESBIAN." Placed off to

the side, near the gallery entrance where its bulk could be accommodated, it is

the only work in the show contributed by a biological man, the deceased George

Dudley.

While a variety of

artists and mediums are represented in Pink

& Bent
, also emphasized is a range of ages, cultures, regions,

aesthetics and levels of artistic accomplishment and commercial success. True

to the feminist impulse that informs queer women’s art, the show aims above all

to bring visibility to individuals and issues that often go unseen or get

suppressed, whether in the art world establishment or on the graffitied,

activist streets. Queer women from both spheres contribute to the exhibition.

Maria Tsaguriya, Untitled, 2007



Photos used with permission of the artists.

"This show is a safe

space in which gay artists don’t have to censor their artwork," said Lambert,

who consulted her own list of superheroes in order to develop the impressive

roster of participating artists. "They can be who they are and say what

they want."

Gallego echoed her

co-curator’s point about the imperative for dialogue, particularly in 2008, a

potent political year with much at stake for queer women.

"The story behind

the work is very important," she said. "We need to validate the

stories that are quiet. It’s about voices."

With almost 50 voices

represented in the show, and with some of those artists speaking through more

than one piece of work, the conversation can seem overwhelming at times,

although the unusual opportunity to see queer women’s work collected in one

place remains consistently gratifying. Because of the co-curators’ extensive

commitment to inclusion, visitors may find themselves asking what, if any,

common thread exists among such a widely diverse community of queer women

artists.

In addition, as many

lesbians probably recognize all too well, defining the parameters of a

community can present a thorny task. Who are the members? What traits do they

share in common? How can individuals embrace their uniqueness and still

maintain a coherent group identity?

That impulse to inquiry

can feel frustrating, until one concedes that provoking questions about

community is precisely the point of Pink

& Bent
. So, what holds it all together?

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