Dillon Raborn contemplates how queer identity is represented in an open-call exhibition organized by a Baton Rouge-based arts and culture publication.
The Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge is hosting a gallery show organized by Leur Magazine. The local publication is currently the capital city’s only outlet devoted to queer arts and culture, and “Go ____ Yourself,” located in the Arts Council’s Firehouse Gallery, is its first exhibition. The show is part of the publication’s #allthefills campaign, which asks followers to fill in the blank to create inspirational phrases like “go love yourself,” “go create yourself,” or “go express yourself.”
Selected from an open call, the artwork in “Go ____ Yourself” encompasses a variety of media. Right from the gallery entrance, Gabrielle Murphy presents three of her staged Pink Lady photographs, 2018, of a small pomegranate being gently ravaged by a hand whose fingers seductively caress and press into the opened fruit, smearing its purple-red juices. James Kane’s painting Pound of Flesh, 2016, is filled with discomfort and anxiety. One sees two figures, modeled by thick brushstrokes, having sex in the corner of a room with bluish-green walls of an unappetizing hue. Most disquieting is the red hand extending from one of the blurred bodies.
Kane’s work stands in contrast to the simple humor of Nancy Witte’s Pop Art-style painting in which a blond pin-up girl in black lingerie poses at the edge of a green cliff, framed by an orange sun. A fully dressed, dark-haired woman looks on, gawking and crowned by four floating exclamation points. When the exhibition is not dealing with sex or sexual attraction, the most evocative works address gender roles, such as Anna Lacy's five small-scale watercolors of female roller-derby skaters. Despite their size, these paintings attract viewers with their skilled realism and a sports-infused aggression.
Given the context of the politically centrist atmosphere of Baton Rouge and its more conservative surroundings, it would have been easy for Leur Magazine to mount a more run-of-the-mill Pride Month show, with rainbow-colored artworks vaguely hinting at ideals of equality and love. This sort of simplistically political vibe is surely what I braced myself for, but I took the advice of the #allthefills mantra, presented right at the doorway: “Come with your own interpretations and leave your misconceptions at the door.” The city is lucky to have an aesthetically challenging, content-diverse, and well-composed exhibition.
“Go ____ Yourself” is on view through June 28, 2018, at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s Firehouse Gallery (427 Laurel Street) in Baton Rouge.