Da Vinci Art Alliance explores LGBTQ identity with How Do I Look?

A question with many layers and points of view explores the historical perceptions of the LGBTQ community in the exhibit How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities.

The exhibition “examines personal, private, and public perceptions of the queer self and how these have changed over time,” according to the call for artists. The show will look at 117 years of LGBTQ public representation and the movement for liberation, resistance, normalcy, and acceptability, “historical shifts in the context our own queer communal perceptions of self as well as how society continues to view us.”

David Acosta, artistic director and co-founder of Casa de Duende and board member of  Da Vinci Art Alliance (DVAA), organized the exhibit, which will be displayed at DVAA from January 18 through 29. Jarrod Markman, DVAA’s executive director, said the exhibit is part of a strategy to provide “space and opportunity for artistic growth while bringing in a more diverse membership base.”

Many questions to answer

Acosta chose Craig Bruns, who works as the Chief Curator at the J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library at the Independence Seaport Museum as the show’s juror because Bruns has created works based on similar themes in the past. Bruns chose to do a blind selection process — no names or identification on the works — so he could “only respond to the works themselves and how the illuminate the theme of the show.”

The works in the exhibit, including paintings, drawings, photography, and some 3D pieces, will reflect on how artists answer many questions: How do I look at others? How do others look at me? Does making an image of another reflect the maker? Do we hide behind a mask — would we know if we did?

Like all gallery experiences, Bruns hopes this one will be educational and an exploration to understanding for all viewers. “Artists create images of themselves and others, which can help us understand the ways we do the same within ourselves,” he said. “And who better to ask about self-identity and perception but a population — the queer — who must question their identity when confronted by challenges to their otherness.”

Supporting a young movement

Those challenges have been historical, but also permeate the present. “Without a doubt, these are challenging times, but especially for queer folk,” he said. “The arc of relative liberation and social awareness has been short, in some cases within a single lifetime. But there is a whole generation that has only experienced the advances we have achieved. For them this new challenging era is beyond their experience and grasp. They need guidance and support from queer elders and insights into self-awareness and observation.”

How Do I Look? Shifting Representations of Queer Identities is on display at the Da Vinci Art Alliance (704 Catherine Street, Philadelphia) January 18-29. Gallery hours are Wednesdays from 6-8pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5pm. 

At right: Decisions Decisions (2016) by Stiofan O'Ceallaigh. (Image courtesy of DVAA)