|curator's statement||april 2010 selection|
h e l p ! h o l d m e !
c u r a t o r : e m i l y n e p o n
Studying these images for several months after choosing them, I'm still emotionally impacted by each one in a way that I rarely respond to art on museum walls. I chose these pieces because they made me catch my breath. Now, seeing them as a group, I think that each of the artists is giving us a wrestling match between power and vulnerability. The tensions in that false duality are exciting to me -- which parts are tender and which parts strong?
Works by Gregg Cassin, Preston McGovern, Joe Brainard, and Michael Borosky showcase a beefcake-masculinity with floral-glittery-dreamy-feminine overlay.
Images of birds/bird nests repeat in works by Gregg Cassin and Michael Golden. In many cultures, birds are linked to femininity (including trans-femininity) and homoeroticism. The Yiddish word feygele, meaning little bird, is used as slang for faggot.
Derek Jackson's photos offer a harder-edged femininity, a genderqueer vamp whose tenderness isn't about the makeup but the complicated come-hither look next to the words "HOLD ME."
I think these combinations of gendered elements in work by HIV+ artists are striking together because they defy homophobia, transphobia and AIDS-phobia. In mainstream culture, those fears are so intimately intertwined -- based on negative associations that feminine = vulnerable, fuck-able, penetrate-able, weak. But really we know that the ability to take in, be vulnerable and real, be fucked, be held, ask for help ... these are hard-won strengths.
Thinking about all these pieces together, my sense of Angel Borrero's piece has shifted. At first I saw a chorus of shared desperation ... but in context I wonder -- what is strong? The tall metal buildings with thousands of isolated rooms, or the voices asking for help?
b i o g r a p h y
Emily Nepon aka Killer Sideburns aka Emil Nitrate is a writer, performer, and organizer living in Brooklyn and working at Sylvia Rivera Law Project as Grassroots Fundraising Coordinator. Nepon learned (almost) everything she knows from ACT UP Philly and West Philadelphia's crafty queerpunks. Nepon recently wrote, produced and performed in "Between Two Worlds: Who Loved You Before You Were Mine" -- a reinterpretation of The Dybbuk exploring the ways that the next generation of queers are haunted by the first decade of the AIDS epidemic.