USF will be joining schools nationwide Wednesday in its celebration of the Day of Silence, which is “an annual event held to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools,” according to dayofsilence.org.
The goal of the event is to remain silent throughout the day in order to illustrate the silence LGBT students face every day. The needs and rights of these students often go unrecognized, and this event serves as a way to bring attention to this problem.
To further give a voice to the LGBT community, Kris Derek Hechevarria is curating an art show called Art Breaking the Silence at USF’s Centre Gallery in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. According to Hechevarria’s written description of the show, it “will be a collaborative exhibition which will feature works by queer artists depicting queer subject matter. The word queer is used as a reclaimed word representing anyone who does not conform to hetero-normative society, which includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, genderqueer, intersex individuals as well as pro-gay allies who are openly a part of the gay community.”
The exhibit’s pieces represent a broad spectrum of styles and subjects. The goal of the exhibit is to highlight the commonality of existence – we are all the same regardless of our sexual orientation. Sexual preference is but one aspect of an individual’s life. Therefore, the subject matter of queer artists is the same as the subject matter of heterosexual artists, for the most part – they only differ in the artists’ point of view.
For example, in the only piece to portray same-sex kissing – “Untitled” by Jessica Rice – the approach is more romantic than sexualized. Instead of being represented as the typical recumbent female figures on display for male gazing, the women are sharing a moment of sensuality that is meant for their own pleasure.
This use of female sexuality and varying degrees of nudity is prevalent in the pieces of Art Breaking the Silence. “Exploit My Bitch,” a mixed-media piece by Yvonne Castellanos, consists of a black lamp topped by an upside-down black lampshade around a black light. The inside of the lampshade is lined with a collage of black and white images of women throughout history wearing little or no clothing posed in sexually suggestive positions. These images are the definition of exploitation, hence the title.
Just as the LGBT community is reclaiming the word “queer,” the feminist community is reclaiming the word “bitch.” The use of the word “bitch” is interesting because it can be used in both a derogatory sense and also in the feminist sense of reclamation.
The “we are” series by an artist known as “kmr” is a highlight of the show. The series consists of four paintings, each featuring a well-known feminist: Harriet Tubman, Louise Michel, Emma Goldman and Lucia Sanchez Saornil. Each piece contains the stenciled head of the particular feminist spray-painted onto the canvas and a picture of a headless nude woman (except for “we are harriet tubman,” which consists of an appliquÃ©d stencil). Through assigning headless women to be famous feminists, the women become the feminists.
The nude females face the camera head-on – they do not hide from the viewer or serve as a means of sexual stimulation. Some stand with their fists clenched, ready for the fight for women’s rights, while others stand with cigarettes in their hands. The cigarettes also are feminist symbols because they were originally advertised as “torches of freedom” in an attempt to convince women to smoke in the 1920s.
Although feminism is a common theme in several of the pieces of Art Breaking the Silence, it is not the focus of all of the artists. For example, Jeanine Wiggins explores surrealism in the Dali-esque “The Cosmic Traveler,” as well as the anatomical makeup of the human body in “Human Body Illustration.”
Matthew Schlagbaum presents polaroids of themed parties he has attended, as seen in “Theme Party: ’80s Prom” and “Theme Party: White Trash.” Schlagbaum also provided the photograph for the advertisement of the exhibit, which is a self-portrait of his nude back. The photograph is part of his series, “I’m Bringing Sexy Back,” which contains eight photographs of backs. Castellanos also photographed a back in “My Stained Body.”
The image of the human back is important because it symbolizes the fact that people often turn their backs on the LGBT community – a practice that needs to be stopped and will hopefully begin to change by holding events such as the Day of Silence and curating shows like “Art Breaking the Silence.”
A reception for the show will be held on Friday night from 7 to 9.