Artists to explore shifts in queer identity

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Self-image plays an outsized role in the development of LGBT identities. Gay people have traditionally been at a disadvantage at developing a strong sense of self because, until recently, we haven’t had societally approved roles against which we could measure ourselves. As such, we’ve had to invent ourselves as we go along, keenly conscious of both how the world perceives us and how we perceive ourselves.

Even today, as society fitfully adjusts itself to the increasingly visible presence of gays, the role of image and perception remains a constant factor in our development of our sense of self and our place in society.

This quest for image and its role in gay identity is the major theme of a new exhibit that will open at the Da Vinci Art Alliance later this month. Entitled “How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities,” the show is being curated by Craig Bruns, who is also the chief curator of exhibits at the Independence Seaport Museum and an artist in his own right.

“The title ‘How Do I Look?’ works in both directions,” said Bruns, discussing how the show came about. “It refers to the way we look at ourselves and the image we present to the world, and it refers to how we look at the images presented by the world to us. It’s about how we relate to others in the world, and how we are perceived by the world.”

The original idea for the show came from David Acosta, artistic director of Casa De Duende, which is working in partnership with the Da Vinci Art Alliance to present the show.

“David approached me to curate this show,” Bruns said. “A lot of my job at the Independence Seaport Museum, aside from being responsible for the standing collections, is developing exhibits for the museum. And, a lot of my focus as an artist has been on men, on male imagery. This show raises questions I have long explored about being a man in today’s society, specifically about being a gay man.”

“How Do I Look?” will be a juried exhibition, with a general call for submissions from the local artist community and Bruns in charge of the selection process. The door was open to artists of all identities to submit, with the only criterion that the work address the basic theme of “important questions at the center of contemporary queer life, examining 117 years of LGBTQ public representation to illuminate a community’s commitment to liberation, resistance and to the struggle for normalcy and acceptability, asking central questions about where we have been, where are we now and where we are headed.”

At the time PGN spoke to Bruns, submissions were still coming in. While Bruns was happy with the response, he didn’t want to delve into the selection process until after the deadline so he could look at the options as a whole group.

However, an early survey of the work seemed to indicate that the artists were taking one of two main approaches: one an abstract intellectual approach, and the other a very emotional, expressionistic approach, which is not an uncommon dichotomy in juried shows featuring numerous artists.

One of the prime functions of art is to give us insight into how to perceive the world, and how the world perceives us. Hopefully the artists of “How Do I Look?” will not only be able to give us that insight, but help us see where our sense of self has been and where it is going.

The opening reception for “How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities” will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at Da Vinci Art Alliance, 704 Catharine St. The exhibit will run through Jan. 29. For more information, visit davinciartalliance.org.