Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery Announces New Exhibition, Queer-ish

Two women smoking, n.d. Gelatin silver print Collection of Ken-Gonzales-Day
Two women smoking, n.d. Gelatin silver print Collection of Ken-Gonzales-Day

Beginning October 28, Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery will present Queer-ish: Photography and the LGBTQ+ Imaginary. Curated by 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, interdisciplinary artist and Scripps College Fletcher Jones Chair in Art Ken Gonzales-Day, the exhibition showcases almost 100 historic vernacular photographs highlighting moments of same-sex affection, as well as more than 40 contemporary photographs, primarily by LGBTQ+ artists. The Gallery will host an opening reception on Saturday, October 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. Both the reception and Gallery admission are free and open to the public. 

“We are thrilled to present this exhibition at this moment,” says Erin M. Curtis, Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery. “The struggle for LGBTQ+ equality continues, with many lawmakers attempting to turn back the clock on decades of progress. Recent estimates suggest that a vast majority of those who identify as LGBTQ+ globally feel compelled to conceal their identities. We want to provide a space that celebrates LGBTQ+ identity and its myriad expressions.”

Queer-ish highlights Gonzales-Day’s personal collection of 19th- and 20th-century vernacular photographs—snapshots of everyday life and subjects—depicting people who may have identified as LGBTQ+. These images encourage viewers to consider the link between photography, representation, and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as the role of photographs in shaping notions of queer identity and what Gonzales-Day calls the “queer imaginary,” a critical space he describes as “exploratory, precarious, celebratory, potentially unseen, and subject to change.” 

“Early queer heroes like Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Bruce of Los Angeles, Christine Jorgensen, and Annie Sprinkle are just a few of the many people who helped shape the queer imaginary,” Gonzales-Day says. “The use of ‘-ish’ in the exhibition’s title is a playful gesture, recognizing the precarity and fluidity of gender and sexual identities as well as the complexity of human sexuality.” 

The exhibition includes works by Laura Aguilar, Bruce of Los Angeles, Rick Castro, Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Tammy Rae Carland, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, Naima Green, John K. Hillers, Taizo Kato, Bob Mizer, Pierre Molinier, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Catherine Opie, Marcel Pardo Ariza, Pau S. Pescador, George Quaintance, Pacifico Silano, Annie Sprinkle, Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden, and Austin Young. 

It will also highlight works by Scripps alums Ohan Breiding ’06 and Molly Landreth ’01, as well as by Gonzales-Day, whose photographic work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Getty, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National African American Museum of History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

Gonzales-Day has curated the exhibition so that it is clustered around four key moments. “The first considers representations of intimacy and affection expressed though touch,” he explains. “The second section considers the photographic portrait as a site of agency. The third posits the queer imaginary as a generative, personal, and/or cultural space. The fourth section sees photography as cultural and includes everything from drag to performative acts staged for the camera.” 

The Gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. Additional information about the exhibition can be found on the Gallery’s website or by calling (909) 607-3397.