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The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.
Location: Little Rock, AR and Richmond, VA
Artistic Medium: Mixed Media
Who are you and what do you do?
I am a queer artist in the Deep South whose recent work has been highly active in projects that involve human rights and equality. In 2015, while fighting Arkansas’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), I created and launched a national End Hate installation series. The RFRA bill had originated from then Indiana Governor Mike Pence and was quickly embraced by other states via the ‘ALEC Bill Mill’ to restrict gay marriage. However, the bill was so recklessly and dangerously written not only would have targeted the LGBTQ community but African American, Muslim and Jewish communities as well, reinstating cruel and deadly discriminatory Jim Crow laws overnight. HB1228, as it is also called, would have made it legal to deny life-saving medical care or even a sandwich in a restaurant to someone based on someone else’s “sincerely-held religious beliefs.” The anti-discrimination series was placed twice on the steps of the Arkansas State Capitol in protest, then twice at the National Mall at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. where it was viewed by over 250,000 people. The installation is currently on a nationwide tour as a 50+ piece collection.
What are the top three greatest influences on your work?
History, Justice and Equality.
Describe your coffee order.
Black and strong.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
I’ve had a very successful career, but my greatest accomplishment has been meeting other activists while on the road and developing lifelong friendships. The people I chose to associate with are kind, compassionate, FIERCE, and believe that love conquers all. My favorite saying is “Together We Fight.”
What constitutes a perfect day?
Fresh coffee and taking in the creative “vibe” of wherever I am at the time. I live in two different worlds. I have a studio location on a beautiful Century Farm in the Deep South and then I visit my friends and take in the art scene in New York City often. I feel free in both places and am totally inspired. I’ve learned over the years that kindness and creativity have no boundaries. There are good people everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you are happy with yourself.
What was your favorite exhibition from last year?
The Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I also frequent the Smithsonian American Art Museum every chance I get.
What would your superpower be if you had one?
To make people act right. Hatred and cruelty seem to be the norm these days. It’s not cool.
Tell us a lie about yourself.
I’m good at math.
What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?
How do I take what I’ve seen and help change things?
What is the greatest threat to humanity?
Ego and greed. And politicians that worship them as Gods.
What did you make when you first started making art?
Mixed media screen door creations telling the narrative of the South. I’ve done over 100 of them over the years and the series is registered with the Library of Congress.
Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?
Where I come from, spilling tea is almost a sin. Especially if it’s sweet tea and your grandmother made it. We Southerner’s are experts at throwing shade. The words “bless your heart” are the ultimate slam. Said with true Southern politeness, of course.
What is your all-time favorite work of art?
Robert Rauschenberg’s “Canyon” (1959)
What are your plans for pride month?
I was going to go to New York City, but I have commissioned work to make. I will be creating some new art pieces celebrating Pride and blasting them out through the South. Believe it or not, despite the “image” that Southerners are all hillbillies, it’s not true. (Okay, a few idiot, mouth-breathing politicians here are, bless their hearts.) There is a huge progressive movement here culturally and economically. Fortune 500 companies are located here and are major LGBTQ allies. There are Pride parades in many small cities and towns, and many businesses even fly LGBTQ flags.
What is the future of queerness?
Continuing to watch the word “queer” evolve. It used to be a derogatory term with deadly consequences if you were ever labeled such. To see it evolve into a positive, affirming word gives me great hope and pride.
Back in my day…
I swam naked and care free in clear mountain streams. I worry about swimming in water even in remote locations these days due to pollution.
Name one guilty pleasure.
I will literally fight you over a homegrown tomato picked straight off the vine. My hobby is urban farming when I’m not in the studio or traveling, and I have 22 tomato plants in the ground this year. With these BS tariffs, I’m glad I’m growing my own food.
A pervading sense of existential angst.
Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?
Yes. Very much so.
How do you stay cool during the summer?
Well, hell, we sweat. Then drink iced tea. Doesn’t everyone? (And to answer a question I was recently asked in NYC, yes, we have air conditioners for God’s sake.)
What is your favorite type of milk?
The milk industry is run by corporate lobbyists who have lied to us for years. Drink tea and covfefe instead.
“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.
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