12 Paintings in Exhibition to Honor Orlando

Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Mixed media, 4" x 5"
Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Mixed media, 4″ x 5″

This June, I did something I’ve been meaning to do for several years: I created a painting each day of the month to celebrate Pride.

I was having fun with this project, and adhering quite nicely to my self-imposed deadlines. Then Orlando happened, and the project took on a slightly new meaning.

Where earlier in the project, I experimented in style and celebrated not only the idea of Pride itself, but also a “I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow” kind of thinking, after June 12, I felt less celebratory and decidedly more serious. The faces and events that I pinned to the wall above my bed delivered – needed to deliver, for me – a sense of protection. The paintings became more focused on portraits – faces – looking down and yes, I saw them as protectors.

People who know me know that I’m quite superstitious. Maybe that’s my (decidedly former) Catholic background talking, the need for an icon to look to for stability. Maybe the absence of that statuary, scapulary et al, in my life dictates the current need to carry an Evil Eye in my pocket every day, as well as to have these portraits (icon-like) looking down from above my bed.

In any case, 12 of these Pride paintings will be on display at First Covenant Church in Seattle, with an opening reception on July 14, 2016, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. The exhibition honors the victims of the Orlando murders.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this project to me. When I began, I imagined the possibility of glitter and silliness. But less than halfway through, although there were still some lighter notes (talking to you, Lesbian Pirates) gravitas became a necessity. And I deeply appreciated the many people who wrote to me and thanked me for helping them to process the events in Orlando via my paintings. That was precious to me, and as an artist, there’s nothing higher than that.

Unfortunately, now we turn our attention to other tragedies, with our thoughts in Minnesota and Baton Rouge. I can hardly say I’ve come to terms with Orlando, and we’re faced with these additional senseless killings. I hope for a sense of closure for Orlando through this exhibition, and I promise there will be upcoming work that deals with Black Lives Matter.

Drop by, open-house style, at First Covenant Church for Capitol Hill Art Walk. I’ll be there, and hope you will too.

Details:

First Covenant Church (Summit Building)
420 E. Pike St.
Seattle, WA

Opening Reception:
Thursday, July 14, 2016
6 – 9 PM
Light refreshments provided

Exhibition on view until August 10.

Pride Project #30 – Barbara Jordan

Barbara Jordan, Mixed media on board, 5" x 5"
Barbara Jordan, Mixed media on board, 5″ x 5″

This is the last post celebrating Pride Month!

U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan embodied many important “firsts”. She was the first southern Black person elected to the Texas State Senate following Reconstruction. She was the first southern Black woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was the first Black woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, in 1976, and despite not running for President, she received one delegate’s vote. She’s the still the only Black woman to have ever served as governor (she was Acting Governor for one day in Texas, and that stat doesn’t count Lieutenant Governors).

She was a lawyer, and a professor too. In fact, she had such a keen legal mind that President Bill Clinton said many times that she was his top choice to appoint to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, by the time he was in a position to make a nomination, she was too ill to accept.

Ms. Jordan, in true lesbian fashion, met her long-time love on a camping trip, though she wasn’t out publicly.

She carried a copy of the Constitution at all times, in her purse.

Pride Project #29 – Dave Kopay

Dave Kopay, Mixed media on board, 5" x 5"
Dave Kopay, Mixed media on board, 5″ x 5″

Dave Kopay, a retired NFL running back, was the first professional athlete from a team sport to come out of the closet.

This was in 1975, three years after Dave had retired. He read a newspaper article, along with its follow-up letters from readers, about an unnamed NFL player and his experiences in the league as a gay man. He recognized the player (because he’d slept with him) and knew that the story was accurate, but was upset by the readers’ feedback claiming that the story must be false.

Kopay decided to contact the reporter and verify her earlier story. That, in turn, led to an autobiography that was published in 1977, which was influential to people all over the world – from young kids in the Philippines all the way to Billie Jean King – who were grappling with their own issues of coming out and sexuality. King has said Kopay’s book was helpful to her as she navigated professional life in the wake of a public outing in 1981.

Pride Project #28 – Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry, Mixed media on board, 5" x 5"
Lorraine Hansberry, Mixed media on board, 5″ x 5″

Lorraine Hansberry is the first Black woman whose play, A Raisin in the Sun, appeared on Broadway. She was also the youngest playwright so honored.

It pains me to say this, but through two unsigned letters that she sent to The Ladder, a lesbian magazine, in the late 50s, as well as lists that she regularly made for herself, we know that she was uncomfortable with her sexuality.

The lists, especially, show her ambivalence and her struggle to process her identity. They reference her delight at “the inside of a lovely woman’s mouth” and “69 when it really works”; her love of “slacks” and “Eartha Kitt’s legs”.

For me, though, the most poignant entry lists “my homosexuality” under the headings of both “I like” and “I hate”.

Pride Project #27 – Geri Jewell

Geri Jewell, Mixed media on board, 4" x 5"
Geri Jewell, Mixed media on board, 4″ x 5″

Geri Jewell is the first person with a disability to be cast as a regular in a primetime television series, when she played Blair’s Cousin Geri on The Facts of Life in the 80s.

She got her start as a standup comedian who joked about her own cerebral palsy and got lucky one night when producer Norman Lear and MRS. GARRETT were in the audience. The rest is television history. She worked on other shows like Sesame Street, 21 Jump Street, Deadwood, and Glee.

Years later, she came out as a lesbian (though she says that actress Lisa Whelchel – AKA Blair and Geri’s real-life roommate – knew at the time that she was gay and closeted. Great Hollywood gossip 30 or more years after the fact!).