Feb 21, 2011

Outlandish: Life, Love, and Sex in the U. S., from the Viewpoint of Queer Regionalism

Dear Queer Diaspora Followers! The Program in Sexuality and Gender Studies at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus, announces a conference "Outlandish:  Life, Love, and Sex in the U. S., from the Viewpoint of Queer Regionalism," to take place on March 18 & 19, 2011. This sounds like a wonderfully related conference. Hope to see you there!

Eisenhower Chapel, 118 Pasquerilla Center; Palmer Museum of Art; 121 Sparks Building
Scholars studying sexuality have broadened the sexual horizon, geographically and methodologically. Queer regionalism has been a notable result. It opens scholarship about sexuality and gender to new paradigms and new cultural forms. Queer regionalism initiates discussions about how distance from urban life, especially from bi-coastal metropolitan centers, influences intergenerational, inter-class, and inter-racial eroticism; formation and transmission of sexual customs; intersections of commodified queer culture with regional practices; and sexual life in regard to identity and class categories.
The symposium, which is free and open to the public, celebrates the initiation of the Sexuality and Gender Studies Minor at Penn State, University Park.
Friday, March 18
Session One. Queer Utah:  a Test Case for Queer Regionalist Studies. 10.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. Eisenhower Chapel, 118 Pasquerilla Center
 “Hot Times in Q-tah: Puritans, Caviar, and Self-Penetration,” Kathryn Bond Stockton, University of Utah
“Queer Pioneers: Beyond the Mormonormative in Salt Lake City,” Lisa Duggan, New York University
Respondent: Melissa Wright, Penn State, University Park
Session Two. Queer Country. 1.30-3.30 p.m. Eisenhower Chapel, 118 Pasquerilla Center
“Hixploitation; or the Cultural Emergence of Sarah Palin,” T. Scott Herring, University of Indiana-Bloomington.
“Sex and the Country,” Nadine Hubbs, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Respondent: Nathaniel Belcher, Penn State, University Park
Session Three. Visualizing Queer Regionalism 4-5:30 p.m. Palmer Lipcon Auditorium, Palmer Museum of Art.
“Inroads and Outposts: Curating Queer Exhibitions in the Southwest,” Harmony Hammond, University of Tucson
Respondent: Christopher Reed, Penn State, University Park
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Session Four. Fun Home:  The Queer Alleghenies. 10.30 a.m.-12.30 p.m. 121 Sparks Building
Panel discussion: Anthony D’Augelli, Deb Preston, Julia Kasdorf; Penn State, University Park
Respondent: Carolyn Sachs, Penn State, University Park
Session Five. Queer South, Queer West. 2-4 p.m. 121 Sparks Building
“The Erogenous Asylum,” Mab Segrest, Connecticut College.
“The Middle of Somewhere: Queer Traffic on Highway 99,” Richard T. Rodriguez, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Respondent:  Christopher Castiglia, Penn State, University Park
For additional information, please contact the Person in Charge of the Sexuality and Gender Studies Minor, Penn State, University Park, Robert L. Caserio, Professor of English (rlc25@psu.edu)

Feb 2, 2011

Anna Campbell - The Seeding Trilogy: Sowing Dissent

To live apart from a major metropolitan area is to exist in a cultural ecology that is
more susceptible to anti‐queer conservatism. However, because of its smaller scale,
that kind of ecology can sometimes be more immediately impacted by strong queer
voices. My recent project, The Seeding Trilogy, was an attempt to reframe the hubris
in West Michigan surrounding Artprize, “the world’s largest art prize,” a competition
launched and funded by members of the ultra‐conservative DeVos family. Seeding
was motivated by the sense of dis‐ease I felt in the potential for a family known to
support anti‐gay causes to whitewash its political agenda via an art competition.
The work, itself entered into Artprize, was sited in a gay bar, and employed
vernacular media to help seed a conversation among the people most adversely
affected by that family. The difficulty I had in finding a bar willing to host my project,
and the tone of subsequent communication with superiors at my university, both
reflected a fear of what the project might trigger.

The Seeding Trilogy consisted of three elements: a video projection, a scrolling led
sign, and a series of coasters. The projection Your Lifestyle, or Queer as a Six Billion
Dollar Bill mined Amway recruiting videos for maps of world domination and
pyramid scheme diagrams. A hand holding a brush scrubbed the footage
throughout, referencing the cleaning supplies that are the staples of the Amway
inventory, while also attempting to “clean up” the contents of the video. The
scrolling led sign, Brand New Ticker, nested between keno monitors, enlisted those
whose voices were not represented by massive fortunes, to provide quotes that
could comment ‐ positively or negatively ‐ on the confluence of politics and
philanthropy present within the competition. Finally, I worked with bartenders and
servers to distribute a custom series of coasters to bar patrons. Favors describes
Richard DeVos’s influence in blocking domestic partner benefits at Grand Valley
State University where I teach, Chipping In details the amount of money given by the
DeVos family to support anti‐gay marriage amendments in three separate states,
and Focus on the Family outlines the political impact and aspirations of the extended
DeVos family. The tangibility of the coaster series became particularly effective in
initiating dialog, and many patrons were sufficiently appreciative of the coasters
that the supply was quickly depleted. The continued use of those coasters in
people’s homes helps the project continue to resonate.

West Michigan is among the many locations in the queer diaspora where the
conservatism of the cultural climate makes creative work that engages queerness
not only more imperative than in larger metropolitan centers, but also more
effective. Engaging the long‐standing queer strategy of mixing pleasure with
politics, The Seeding Trilogy used the utter ubiquity of Artprize to activate a bar that
is more generally considered a site for generating pleasure than political debate. In
instances where the project met resistance, opportunities emerged for people to
consciously prioritize the relevance of queer voices over conservative assimilation.

To see more visit Anna's website, www.annacampbell.net

Glenn Tramantano

My artistic practice is centered on an attempt to carve out a queer home within the
conventional frameworks of our society. My intention is to reveal the potential in
challenging conventional structures, turning them into something new and, hopefully,
more beautiful in the process. Creating in the “queer diaspora” means just this to me:
finding new ways of imagining the places we call home.

My current work is a series of drawings entitled Friends of Dorothy which deals with the
ongoing debate of gays in the military. As one of the few institutions left in our country
that silences the queer experience, it directly affects the notion of a queer diaspora. This
work addresses the history of a discriminatory policy, while at the same time imagining
the potential future of a queer military.

In the early 1980s the Naval Investigative Service was attempting to root out homosexual
personnel from the US military. Through their investigation, agents became aware of
the term “friend of Dorothy,” a common code used in the second half of the 20th century
to refer to gay men. It is thought that the term originated with the famous character of
Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, in The Wizard of Oz. Not knowing the history
behind the phrase, the N.I.S agents were convinced that a real woman named Dorothy
existed who was at the center of a massive ring of homosexual military men. In an
attempt to expose these men, they launched a search for Dorothy.

This series of drawings re-imagines the world of Oz through the lens of that historical
moment of confusion. What if, in fact, Dorothy Gale was the leader of an underground
group of gay characters and military men? And what if the N.I.S. and the Wicked Witch
of the West were working together to bring Dorothy to justice?

These drawings play within the codes of gay iconography and lexicon. They question
historical meaning, and bleed fact into fiction. And they are created in the context of a
current political debate that more often than not fails to learn from the mistakes of the

More of Glenn's work can be found at, www.glenntramantano.com

Jan 31, 2011


The construction of “confessional” spaces needs to be a reconfigured landscape in hopes to develop new vocabulary around the visibility held by queer and trans. From this point on I will refer to this form as an autobiographical space. The representation of the spectrum of gender is minimal to non-existent in media- YouTube is a medium that allows this expanse to be held. These videos are a movement in the documentation of the transgender context through this gender revolution. It is important to demonstrate this as a form of activism that is needed to bring awareness to trans issues.

The subject position is a destabilized one as it is the perspective of viewing the other. Allen Feldman discussed in his lecture at CalArts how we are trained as people to disembody ourselves theoretically and analytically-, which creates a tension between our own perspectives of self and the other. How do we begin to understand this? I believe that we are not getting any closer to this reconnection by creating autobiographical/therapeutic videos on a public website. The understanding of hyper- individualism that is constantly recreated through the use of YouTube, by identifying oneself in reflection of the other, begins to erase the auto understanding of self-identification. Do these spaces create a visibility for critical discourse to then be made in progress to the political movement? Or rather make this THE political movement?

FTM Fuck Fest And Developmental Emotional Complexity is the beginning to a documentary that structures the autobiographical spaces that female-to-male transsexuals hold on a web based video site. I have begun to create a narrative of these autobiographical spaces by weeding through many and editing each one to the exact line(s) that tell the story/facts I am developing. When one types in “FTM passing” on YouTube and retrieves hundreds of videos of ftm’s discussing passing and what that experience has been like for them, a narrative is created about that topic. I am structuring these categories (ftm passing, ftm pumping, ftm girlfriends, ftm body transition, ftm emotional transition, etc.) into chapters that are illustrated through these video clips of dialogue- in hopes to create conversation outside the space within which these videos originally exist. On a much bigger level this piece is a new media study that is being channeled through the research of ftm trans spaces. Improving upon this medium allows otherwise marginalized communities to have dialogue.

Against Equality - Reviving the queer political imagination through visual culture

Against Equality is an online archive, publishing, and arts collective focused on critiquing mainstream gay and lesbian politics through text and visual culture. As queer thinkers, writers and artists, we are committed to dislodging the centrality of equality rhetoric and challenging the demand for inclusion in the institution of marriage, the United States military, and the prison industrial complex via hate crimes legislation. Founded by Ryan Conrad in Lewiston Maine in 2009, Against Equality has nurtured an international network of rural and urban queers who are committed to reinvigorating the queer political imagination with fantastic possibility. Through archival practices, calls for art, culture jamming, video production, book publishing and lecturing, the collective curatorial project has gained traction and praise from queer academics and cultural workers across North America.

This collective project relies heavily on phone and Internet technologies to function. With all of its core and contributing members living in different cities as big as San Francisco and Chicago and towns as small as Lewiston Maine and Omeemee Ontario, technology has been instrumental to our daily functioning and communication needs. In addition, many of the core collective and contributing members have never met in person. Using digital technology to tackle rural isolation and urban alienation in the deafeningly hegemonic political debates on gay marriage and “don’t ask, don’t tell” has become critical to our emotional and political survival.

This project also questions the current prioritization of specific gay and lesbian political issues (marriage, military and hate crimes legislation) set by an urban middleclass gay mainstream. By foregrounding the materialist critiques of working poor and rural queer & trans activists in tandem with radical queer & trans critiques coming from urban centers that are infused with an intersubjective criticality, we hope to create space for imaging the queerest geographic futures possible.

Visit www.againstequality.org to see more.

Jan 30, 2011

Tyrus Clutter

While urban centers continue to offer subcultural realms in which LGBT individuals may function in freedom and acceptance, the majority of people still live in smaller communities. And while attitudes concerning the LGBT community have greatly changed in the last forty years, living openly in less urban settings continues to be a challenge. In these regions traditional religious mores still frame the attitudes and actions of even those who do not necessarily ascribe to those faiths. The long held fears of rejection by family and friends also remain, causing many to live either untruthful or secret lives. These paintings on antique book pages were created in such non-urban settings and represent two different but related series.

The Permanent Fixtures series—the images of urinals—alludes to common cultural discomforts with male intimacy, whether homosexual or heterosexual. The absence of figures among these closely spaced urinals begs questions about sexual identity in men. The mixture of text and imagery also denotes the coded communications of closeted gay and bisexual men. Outside of gay subcultural centers, the communication among gay men often begins by “reading between the lines.” There is a “subtext” to these works and they can be read in multiple ways at the same time. Only a close inspection reveals the fullness of the communication.

The Saints, Sinners, Martyrs, & Misfits series is composed of a variety of portraits (including Andy Warhol, gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, fallen evangelical leader Ted Haggard, Matthew Shepherd, and artist Tim Rollins, etc.). All the figures in this series are painted on pages from religious books or Bibles. The duality of text and image is matched by the figures. While the figures are not traditional canonized saints, they have each garnered praise from various people and groups. At the same time, other groups have been less appreciative of these individuals. The political left and right are at odds concerning several of these figures. Those with religious leanings—in both camps—have either praised or denounced these “saints,” using the same criteria to either lift them up or tear them down. Like the traditional saints, these are just ordinary people with good points and bad points. It should never be our prerogative to canonize or demonize public figures we do not personally know. These paintings seek a common ground between the increasingly polarized segments of our larger society.

Additional images from both of these series are available at www.tyrusclutter.com.

Jan 3, 2011

O. Gusavo Plascencia - Caught Between Ambiguities

Being an artist of “color” in the USA often overshadows my double identity as a queer artist – often to my own fault, I must confess. This is not a deliberate act, but more of combination of personality and cultural traits. To illustrate this, I need to quote my mother, she always told all of her children “I don’t want a parade here, just bring home the one you are going to marry” and so everybody did. This ideology reinforces the believe that what happens behind doors is private, but also opens the door to secrecy and the coded symbolism that is present in my work. On the other hand my work does not seem “Mexican enough” either.  I am an artist using mostly memory, the body and identity between an institutionalized society. My work is composed of different and sometimes conflicting facets, which makes it especially hard for curators and the art world because the work is hard to label. 

This is why sometimes I am accused of “passing” for something I’m not or pretend not to be. Apparently my work is not enough of anything and a little bit of everything, which makes people uneasy, because they do not know how to categorize it. Creating in the Queer Diaspora in the Mexican Diaspora may be removed once too many, but my work still deals with identity and personal struggles arriving to a personal Queer-Mexican-Catholic identity, both from a cultural and personal point of view – involving everything that makes me who I am as a person and as an artist. The series that best represent these qualities is entitled Capricious Tales.

For years I collected mementos, things that reminded me of people, places, or particular moments in my life. A year ago I started to collect things that I would normally throw away – orange peels, pepper ends, broken glasses, and eggshells among others things. These objects were meant to be discarded, but instead I kept them and soon they started to tell old and new stories; stories about childhood and adulthood, stories of family and solitude, stories about dream and hopes, stories about me. Many of the stories depicted in these images are based on family interactions and kitchen stories.  The kitchen is such an important place at many houses; it seems to be the nucleus of the family. The kitchen is where announcements happen, politics and religion are discussed, misunderstandings, reconciliations, and even weddings and first communions happen in the kitchen. Capricious Tales is a series that explores metaphors of family secrets, personal struggles, and shared experiences – both in public and private places. I created a physical inventory of shadows hoping to better preserve my memories this way. The abstract nature of the photogram emphasizes both the capricious nature of memory as well as the secret and sometimes coded aspects of private lives. All of the images in this series talk of the duality – and sometimes conflict – between domesticity and utilitarianism, personal and communal, self and society.

You Can find more wonderful works by Gusavo at http://ogplascencia.com

Geoffrey Aldridge

Investigating identity construction within my work, my artistic interventions speak to the institutional defining of “identity art” throughout the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. Often promoting a stereotypical expectation about artists and their work, I position my work as a continuation of “identity art,” yet specifically from the perspective of a “queer artist,” as conceptually larger than myself. We all possess gender and sexuality. My interest is within the paradoxical moments between the objects and the viewer—it’s implicative—disrupting, or complicating the space. I want these interactions to work with an in-between-ness sensibility, like a pendulum swinging with two absolutions at either end. I position myself in the center of the swing, a place where I can question.

Originally from the rural Midwest, and raised in a small farming community, I refer to my upbringing as a source to create a larger dialogue about queer identity. In my work I refer to cultural pasts whether iconic cinematic themes, disco, farming, or Christianity, specifically Baptist, as a way to position the work. For example, Us is an installation of the fifty states, cut out of mirror and categorized to represent where, I, as a queer man would be most comfortable living. I think of my work as a way to position a greater cultural landscape that includes rural, suburban, and urban life.

For more information, www.geoffreyaldridge.com 

Dave Kube

As a queer artist, growing up and living in the Midwest, I oscillate between two worlds that, at once, allow me to feel connected to a community with its own history, struggle, communication, and inherent reality.  The other world, codified by living in a non-urban environment, has presented me with a longing for a more tangible sense of belonging to the queer community.
This tension, created by alternating dichotomies, fields my vision and provides a basis for the work I create.  My work primarily questions and reflects on queer experiences, relationships, and queer theory.  While most of my work subtly connects to the impact of being queer from a non-urban perspective, some bodies of work run more parallel to those ideas and influences of rural settings in regards to a queer context.
This is especially true in a recent body of work ‘Queering the Landscape’.  It is through this body of work that I attempt to present rural areas in the Midwest through a queer perspective.  By referencing the ideas of queer reading, which is a way in which sexual minorities deconstruct public and private spaces; I approached the visual elements within the landscape to impart ideas and experiences of queer life.  Assigning queer terminology to a traditional landscape, in an area that is often devoid of queer perspectives, challenges the invisible presence of queer elements within a non-urban community.  Furthermore, the visual elements conveying these queer ideas are often not readily apparent until the viewer reads the title.  This lack of clarity without a title or identification has a very symbiotic relationship to the excessive filtering often found in areas outside of urban settings.

Certainly technological advances in communication and the more visible presence in contemporary media have sparked a better environment for queer people in both urban and non-urban places.  However, I believe non-urban areas still lag behind due to a ripple effect that slowly and less profoundly affects people in rural areas.  A lack of community to rally and support leaves only an abstract presence for non-queer, and even queer, people to identify with.
You can find more about Dave and his work on his website, www.davekube.com

Dec 30, 2010

Cory W. Peeke

Artist Statement:

"We live in a moment of collage, of splicing, entering another's space, of coexistence, or of forced coexistence."

-Wangechi Mutu

I am beginning my eighth year of teaching at Eastern Oregon University, a small college located in the rural northeast corner of the state. I am the only openly gay/queer faculty member at EOU and one of only a handful in the area. Since moving here from Seattle in 2003 it has been and often continues to be a challenge for me both socially and artistically, but one not without its insights and rewards.

Wangechi Mutu’s quote above resonates with me. As the solitary queer faculty member here I feel as though I am entering that “another’s space” and forcing recognition of the “other” upon this conservative, rural culture. This is often a forced coexistence between a small population of diverse backgrounds, ideas and loves and the larger heteronormative culture. Many of the young people who come to EOU to study have lived their entire lives in this region never having so much as travelled to Portland. They have little to no experience of a positive queer culture.

My presences as an out gay man coupled with the work I create provides me with a unique opportunity to force coexistence. In my work I utilize a large variety of found images of men, appropriated from a variety of sources. With these I construct evocative and often humorous juxtapositions illuminating society's reactionary and often ridiculous relation to identity stereotypes. Exhibiting my work in Seattle and other metropolitan areas often led me to feel as though I was preaching to the converted. By presenting my work within the region to students and peers, many of whom are more traditionally conservative in their outlook than myself, has given me a new perspectives on both the presentation and production of my images.

Lately I’ve begun a juxtaposition of images acquired from amateur internet porn websites with art historical reproductions often featuring the male form, often nude. These images are combined with images of flora and fruit cut from contemporary and vintage wallpaper samples. These images are a nod both to art historical depictions of the acceptably naked man (Adam) as well as to the decorative nature inherent in most pedestrian definitions of art.

I find many of my students initially see no purpose for art beyond that of decoration. Having grown up in a similar rural community with similar exposure to art helps me understand these young people’s rather limited expectations and perspectives. Challenging their notions of decoration by splicing together representations of ornamental forms such as flowers and historical portraiture with the brazen images found on the internet compels them, I hope, to consider the dualities embodied in representations of both the male form and the queer: the sacred and the profane, the seductive and the repulsive, the serious and the amusing, and the naked and the nude.

This work and my presence here may not change the world but they play a roll , even if a very small and local one in the movement toward acceptance of both gay people and challenging art.

You can find more of Cory's beautiful work on his website, www.corypeeke.com

Dec 9, 2010

What is Queer Diaspora ?

Geography, and the relationship between space, community, and art, has been redefined through the internet and mobile technologies. Communities no longer have to occupy one common physical space, and people do not need to stand in front of art objects to experience them. In fact, art itself can exist outside of object-hood completely.

Technological advances have shifted the way people function; the way they interact, think, communicate, form communities, experience art, access information, and process the world. These shifts in behavior have a special relationship to queer artists and how they produce works of art. Traditionally, queer people who wanted to be “out” and produce meaningful work migrated to urban hubs. This migration created communities, both socially and politically active queer communities and intellectual creative communities. Today however, queer artists are able to access both queer and creative communities, find and view one another’s works, and showcase their own creative production without moving to urban centers. Queer artists are moving out of urban queer ghettos and living in a variety of nonurban environments, thus creating a range of possibilities for the queer creative life.

Issues of community and place are especially important for the producers and publics of queer art.  Historically, common coming-of-age narratives for young queer people in rural or suburban settings follow a certain pattern. Rural queer youth discover a disconnect between their community’s normative expectations for adult behavior and their personal desires. They set out to relinquish those normative expectations by connecting to peer groups who share their desires, and reinvent themselves according to new models in new places. Physical, geographic displacement from rural obscurity into urban enlightenment is the traditional narrative in the creation of the queer artist/intellectual.

However, simple observation of our current social and cultural conditions shows that this is no longer a hard truth. Economic realities such as high rents, high cost of living, and scant affordable studio space have meant that artists are seeking out locations on the periphery of urban centers, or well beyond their direct spheres of influence, to make their work.  Furthermore, shifts in our common social reality such as greater exposure of queer issues in the media, legal protections, and technological advances that encourage community building have meant that LGBTTQIA artists have been able to maintain open and artistically productive lives outside of urban queer ghettos.