Queer Fantasy Examines Gay Art beyond “Victim Art”

The new exhibition at OHWOW Gallery focuses on artistic diversity within the gay art scene

In a joyful coincidence, the group exhibition Queer Fantasy will open this Saturday, July 11, at the OHWOW Gallery in West Hollywood, two weeks after the Supreme Court decision to grant the right of marriage to the gay community in the United States. William J. Simmons, the curator of Queer Fantasy, did not foresee this development when he began collaborating with the OHWOW Gallery. His aim was to challenge a discourse around Queer Art which assumes a univocal gay motive exists and to question the belief that all queer artists want to participate in the advancement of this speculative agenda. The truth is gay artists in this country have been making work about everything under the sun for decades, and it would be shortsighted to only consider examples of “victim art” as representative of the whole.

Simmons explains the curatorial balance required when presenting queer artists that do not make art associated with gay issues. “It is always a push and pull. At once you have to acknowledge that the standard lineage and history of queer art tends to focus on the depiction of queer bodies, of queer sex, of themes dealing with AIDS. At the same time I don’t want anyone to think this show is an attempt to be post-AIDS or post-identity politics. I think it is an attempt to honor that history while looking with more nuance at the possibilities for queer expression.”

By selecting artists for Queer Fantasy of different ages and backgrounds, working in a range of media, Simmons is attempting to reformulate our artistic histories. He explains, “I think that most people think of queer art in terms of film and photography. In the 60’s and 70’s these forms of media were very important because the work was able to be reproduced, disseminated, and used as activist material. It provided a community with diverse viewing material, but something I have been thinking a lot about lately is how queerness can be made manifest in other media.”

The ten artists involved in this exhibit, A.K. Burns, Leidy Churchman, Jimmy DeSana, Celeste Dupuy-Spencer, Mariah Garnett, Jacolby Satterwhite, David Benjamin Sherry, Jack Smith, A.L. Steiner, and John Waters, serve as successful examples of Simmons’ interest in the expanding possibilities for queerness in artistic expression. Simmons has included photographers, filmmakers, and painters, as well as sculptors, and installation artists, “to show how queerness can also be fleshed out into three dimensions, how it can inhabit a space.”

This exhibit is aligned with the 30 year anniversary of West Hollywood’s establishment as an incorporated municipality. “Some of these artists, such as Jimmy DeSana, have never been shown in L.A., ever. At the same time there are some artists that are deeply rooted and inspired by L.A., such as A.L. Steiner and David Benjamin Sherry, who really derive a lot of their artistic identity from that particular context.”

“While it will be a place for people to celebrate this landmark Supreme Court decision, I hope that it will also prompt people to do more research and think further about what else needs to be done. The show runs a historical gamut from the ’60s to the present, so you can sort of see the things we have accomplished that Jack Smith could have never imagined. And with that I hope this is a space where the diversity of queer experience really comes to the fore, and provides the impetus for people to say, ‘hmm, what’s next?’”

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