Arts & Culture

Student art exhibit contemplates queerness, questioning

Hanesworth ’20, Meng ’20 collaboration meant to evoke conversations on queer identities

By
Staff Writer
Monday, November 13, 2017

A reception last Thursday closed “Queries (*),” a student art exhibit by Alex Hanesworth ’20 and Sophia Meng ’20 that explored and questioned queer identities. The exhibit occupied the student gallery on the second floor of List Art Center for a week.

Viewers of the exhibit first encountered a wall covered with dozens of graphite comics, which were drawn by Hanesworth and Meng, who later went on to present thoughts about sexual identity, gender and attraction during the reception. An adjacent wall challenged viewers to draw their own comic or write a note about their reactions to the exhibit or personal experiences with identities and exploration of queerness. Finally, viewers entered a dark room to watch an immersive video and sound installation projected onto the walls. The sound component of the installation interlaced snippets of interviews with cuts of people speaking about how they identify and anecdotes about being queer. Viewers watched the bodies of anonymous interviewees as they responded to Meng and Hanesworth’s questions that delved into self-identification and experiences with questioning.

Brown/RISD Dual Degree student Emilia Mann ’20 said the exhibit was “extremely thoughtful and relatable.”

Meng and Hanesworth knew they wanted to create a show together when they entered a lottery early this semester to show in the space, but they were unclear about the theme of the work, Meng said.

“We sat on the grass of the main green for so many afternoons, hashing through ideas,” she added. “It happened almost organically when we were talking about things we had been thinking about.” Hanesworth came up with their specific focuses of questioning and desirability politics, which she defines as the impact of cultural ideals on attraction.

To create the exhibit, Meng and Hanesworth agreed to each make one comic contemplating personal experiences with queerness and identity every day for thirty days before revealing the comics to each other at the end of the month, Meng said. Meng then arranged the comics into a loose narrative that progresses along the gallery wall, Hanesworth added.

The idea for the video and sound installation emerged when the artists wanted to conduct interviews in order to move away from their own experiences and represent more queer voices on campus, Hanesworth said. The pair interviewed and filmed 15 people after posting a call on Facebook class pages in an attempt to prompt discussion and “talk about the concept of queerness but specifically those early stages (of questioning) or the ongoing process of figuring out who you are,” Hanesworth said.