Breaking the mould and reclaiming space

A new Fredericton exhibit aims to make LGBTQ people feel comfortable taking up space, and to make some who aren’t LGBTQ, uncomfortable.

Artists of the Queer Bodies, Queer Narratives exhibit at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design took part in a panel discussion at the George Fry Gallery on Jan. 16. They exchanged ideas and discussed what inspires their art.

Dusty Green, an artist who displayed their work at the gallery, archives and disseminates rare historical photos that portray “homosocial relationships” from a time when being LGBTQ was illegal or taboo. 

“Things like queer sexuality make people extremely uncomfortable. So the title, Queer Bodies, Queer Narratives, is sort of about reclaiming that,” said Green.

Green said it’s important for people to know it’s okay to have a queer body.

“Queer bodies are very different and diverse, and queer love is very different and diverse. Queer identities kind of challenge the status quo and makes the people who need to be uncomfortable, uncomfortable.”

Kyle Kirby works in fashion and created dresses for the exhibit. He found inspiration for the idea of taking up space in 18th century clothing. (Elijah Matheson/AQ)

The exhibit opened Dec. 6 and featured seven artists with different styles of work, ranging from painting and film to ceramics and textiles.

Three of the artists led the panel discussion. All panelists agreed one of the purposes of LGBTQ art is to encourage LGBTQ people to take up space and reject the pressure to assimilate and be more digestible for heteronormative culture.

Angel Williams, whose work features trans identities and expression outside the societal narrative of hyper-masculine trans men, said they struggled as a trans person at NBCCD.

“I feel like a lot of people were really confused about how to process certain identities. My goal isn’t necessarily to be palatable. That’s not really something I’m interested in. I’m not really interested in, I don’t know, fitting a mould, I guess,” said Williams.

Former NBCCD student Kyle Kirby, who works in fashion and created dresses for the exhibit, said he found inspiration for the idea of taking up space in 18th century clothing.

Angel Williams’s was one of the artists at the panel discussion. Their work features trans identities and expression outside the societal narrative of hyper-masculine trans men. (Elijah Matheson/AQ)

“For this collection specifically, I was really just trying to make a statement. I really liked how basically the entire mentality of 18th century fashion was taking up space and being like, ‘I’m here and I’m in the way,’” said Kirby.

The panelists agreed that although it’s difficult taking up space as an LGBTQ person anywhere, this exhibit demonstrates that NBCCD is supportive of the community. Williams believes even the title of the exhibit helps create a positive space for LGBTQ people.

“The support has to be 100 per cent explicit. If something’s going to be that gay, you owe it to people to say like, ‘There’s gay stuff in here.’ The representation has just been so scarce,” said Williams.

“I feel like we really need that to invite people into these spaces because we’re not going to know about it unless we really label it as such.”

While the exhibit is no longer on display, event organizer and gallery director Karen Ruet said there’s been immense positive feedback. There are several people who want to be included in the next show, and some have said they were able to come out to others because of the exhibit.

“I thought it was amazing that people felt the courage to express that to other people during the course of the exhibition,” said Ruet.

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