Year-Long Photography Art Exhibit Makes Appearance in the Clifford Art Gallery

Morgan Giordano

On November 16, the Clifford Gallery held a panel discussion and opening reception for an exhibit that was a year in the making. The “A Fine Line: Private Lives for Public Eyes View” photographic show, co-sponsored by the Art & Art History Department and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Initiatives, was put together by Assistant Director of LGBTQ Initiatives and the Center for Leadership and Student Involvement Jamie Bergeron, Associate Professor of Art & Art History Linn Underhill and recent graduate Benae Beamon ‘11. Before graduating, Beamon served as the LBGTQ Initiatives Intern. As a final project before her graduation, Beamon went to Bergeron and they started coming up with ideas.

“In art, there is this blurry line between when it’s a representation of an intimate feeling or when it is a mechanism for social change and raising awareness. We both felt that we wanted to engage people through art. We started researching artists and Benae was looking at many different forms. We both felt particularly drawn to photography and portraits,” Bergeron said. “We wanted the works to be contrasting, but they are all related because they focus around gender and sexuality but different enough so they would raise new questions about gender and sexuality.”

Beamon and Bergeron spent almost two months researching photographers from across the country online and selecting the ones they would ultimately reach out to. They secured Jason Hanasik, Jo Ann Santangelo and Sophia Wallace. Underhill not only provided the artistic voice to the gallery, but she also brought well known artist Catherine Opie’s provocative pieces to Colgate to round out the show and add an extra perspective. Opie could not come to the show because she was previously booked.

Each artist told a different story about gender, sexuality and intimate views about lives. Hanaski’s He Opened Up Somewhere Along the Eastern Shore challenged the idea of traditional masculinity by showing vulnerable photos of soldiers. Santangelo’s Proud to Serve showed pictures of soldiers at home who served in silence or were discharged by the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Wallace’s collection, Truer, depicted intimate scenes of her and her partner. Opie’s Domestic showed same-sex couples happily at home with their families. Although the artists gave introductions about their collections, they allowed the viewers to create their own interpretations of the work. Colgate became the first gallery to curate Wallace’s entire collection. All others have restricted her to showing one or two pieces.

There was a large turnout at the opening night of the gallery and students of Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Kristy Watkins’s “Gender, Sexuality and Society” class got a preview of what was to come. The artists came to speak to the class broadly about the impact of art on the social sphere.  They explained how it can nudge the culture and regard of gender and sexuality.

“It has been very fun to talk about gender and sexuality in a different way. We had faculty, students, staff and lots of community members including Hamilton and Norwich residents. Everyone got to engage on questions. It was fascinating to hear what they asked. The art students asked how they did their art, such as ‘how do you make it as an artist’ and ‘how do you stay true to what drives you creatively?’ In lots of ways, bringing these artists to campus was mind opening. It was interesting and broadened our horizons. We got lots of people talking and it was people who wouldn’t normally be in the same room,” Bergeron said.

Unfortunately, Beamon could not attend the opening night when the artists spoke. She is currently enrolled in graduate school and had class conflicts. She came to Colgate that weekend to view the finished gallery.

“Benae was really, really pleased. The concept began with her thinking and connecting different topics that the artists presented. It was important to her to show the scope of what LGBTQ initiatives does on campus,” Bergeron said.

Contact Morgan Giordanoat [email protected].