As all things are, the Stonewall riots are multifaceted and represent different values to different people, but all can agree that Stonewall was a landmark, a turning point in the fight for equal rights. Half a century later, queer communities around the country pause to reflect upon how far we’ve come—and how far we haven’t.
David Acosta and Janus Ourma embark on their first curatorial collaboration with each other this month, inaugurating their Stonewall @ 50 art exhibition with an opening reception at the Drexel Pearlstein Gallery on June 28 at 5pm. “A celebration through painting and performance and sculpture,” Stonewall @ 50 reflects on the riots and their impact, still being felt today.
Seeing and being seen
Acosta and Ourma carefully selected a diverse group of 60 local queer artists whose works explore a wealth of unique relationships to Stonewall, their own queerness, and the relationship between the two. “My only information on being gay was what was written in medical books and through religion (all not positive). Seeing the Stonewall riots on the TV news at night was a revelation,” declares artist Keith R. Breitfeller in a statement on display in the gallery. Amy Eileen Martin acknowledges that Stonewall was only the beginning: “The Stonewall Riots inspire me with hope that our queer community can continue to organize to ensure that the future is better than the present—especially in a political climate that threatens to take away the limited freedoms that we have won.”
“Queer American artists for a queer American audience”
While everyone regardless of gender identity or sexuality is invited (and indeed encouraged) to take in the diverse artwork on display, this is an examination and celebration of Stonewall by and for the queer community for its momentous anniversary. Artist Brandon Straus sums it up succinctly: “The Stonewall Riots were our Liberty Leading the People. The Stonewall Riots were our Washington Crossing the Delaware. The Stonewall Riots were our Guernica.”
The opening reception will be held on Friday, June 28, from 5 to 8pm at the Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert Street, with performances by Wit López, Vitche-Boul Ra, and a tableaux vivant by Jonas Dos Santos. The exhibit will be on view until July 26.