Support, Opportunity, and Liberation: Month of Sundays at Eugene Contemporary Art

Pace Taylor, I am a witness, 2021. Pencil on paper. Courtesy of Eugene Contemporary Art.

“Isn’t this world a jackass?” asked Remy Malik in the film Meditation on Nowhere (2021).

It often feels that way as a nonbinary person. I watch as the LGBTQIA2+ community fights to survive through transphobia, racism, xenophobia, classism, and ableism. But I have learned there is also a need for love to survive—love of self and community—in pursuit of support, opportunity, and liberation.

In art, I see opportunity—to share our experience of transness, to inform our explorations of self, to educate, and to be seen: in our joy, in our struggles, through our own eyes. 

Co-curated by Tannon Reckling and Sam Wrigglesworth, Month of Sundays exhibited the work of ten artists selected to participate in Tropical Contemporary’s 2020/2021 Transformation Residency Program—an opportunity for transgender and gender-diverse artists in Oregon to create new work with financial support—and was on view at ANTI-AESTHETIC in January and February of 2022.

As I walked through the door, Oliver Myhre’s work was the first to greet me. In the corner, Self-Designated Exclusion (2021) used the imagery of a dunce cap, eliciting for me beauty and adornment through the appliqué of glass rhinestones, while bringing to mind the punishment of non-normative bodies, either by ourselves or society.

Five photos of a person wearing tight, see-through, and glittery clothing posing for a camera—sometimes candidly, sometimes extravagantly.
Carina Borealis, Faggot Appropriating Bro Culture: Re-scripting Effeminacy, 2021. Photographs. Courtesy of Eugene Contemporary Art.

Across the room, intergalactic-post-butoh-drag-creature-fitness-instructor Carina Borealis’s self-portraits, in all their glitz and sweat, restructured the ways we might speak of strength. Faggot Appropriating Bro Culture: Re-scripting Effeminacy (2021), for example, enmeshed costuming, performance, calisthenics, photography, and dance, all in one. This weaving together of processes recalled the artist’s practice of recapitulating and transforming derogatory words, finding ways to be and feel enough, and challenging cultural norms in pursuit of physical, mental, and social strength.

In the corner, Princess Bouton of the Kiki House of Flora danced in vivid, saturated exuberance, in Princess Too Bad (2020). As I watched a Black Transfeminine human feeling joy in her body, there was a palpable sense of Bouton’s Pleasure Activism: the belief and act that liberatory practices can be some of the most pleasurable experiences, rather than just work to be done.

Rounding the corner, Irene June’s Shrine-ing, reprise (2020–21) was perched on four outstretched spindles. Among articulate joints, the metal structure was encased in joss paper with wax. Joss sticks emerged as spikes from the paper skin or fur, while excess wax dripped to the floor from its arched back. Among the wax mounds on the floor, remnants of joss ash and carefully tended cordage drip in precise parallel lines from the form.

Along both side walls, Julia O. presented a series of paintings. In UNREST (2021), the face of a nude trans woman, outlined in pink against a hunter green background, was turned away as she lay with her body splayed on the ground. The tentative marks and the compositional void reminded me of my own experiences with dysphoria. Her abstract compositions also humorously brought to mind hopeful laughter at the recollection of bodily fluids. 

Suspended in the back corner, Eel Probably presented love me, loves me not (2021), a dangling floral arrangement of gesso-formed loose canvas and used scalpel blades from the artist’s studio, of which several had been plucked to the floor as if flower petals from a child’s game. I think of the way this work mirrored the comfort and discomfort trans folks often feel in their own bodies, especially installed beside the depiction of a post-double incision chest.

Centered in an installation photo, a wirey, spidery, stringy figure sloths in place.
Month of Sundays. Installation view. Courtesy of Eugene Contemporary Art.

Sprawling across the rear wall, I am a witness (2021) caught my eye with quiet subtlety. Pace Taylor used their pencil to carefully render hand after hand: outstretched, gripping, reaching, touching, holding, pulling. The work on found paper read as a constellation of memory, longing, and intimacy. 

Finally, in the middle of the gallery, alone in its quiet darkness, I found the work of Black, non-binary, mystic, and poet Remy Malik. The screen of this film Meditation on Nowhere (2021) beckoned, pulling me in closer and closer. 

Like Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” If there is infrastructure we desire that does not exist, we must create it. If there is a gap in access to artistic creation, we must build a bridge. If there is representation lacking, we must document it. If the world cannot imagine, we must step in and show the world that liberation requires both trouble and quietude. Luckily, in Month of Sundays, both were on view.

“Breathe in and feel the liberation of this moment, the moment that chose to be with you.

Exhale and remember that you have chosen to be with this moment.” —Remy Malik

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Author: Chelsea Couch

Chelsea Couch (they/them) is an artist, educator with Willamette University, and co-executive and artistic director of Ditch Projects. As a multidisciplinary artist, they explore a materials- and object-based practice and enjoy crafting work that aggregates double entendre, innuendo, and non sequitur. They are searching for queer exuberance; investigating notions of safety and security as related to late-stage capitalism and post-gender embodiment. They are currently based in Salem, OR, a transplant from Southern Appalachia.