On a Thursday evening in late May, more than 100 people gathered to witness the opening of the 2nd annual LBGTQA art show, Bend.
“I feel that this show not only enables me to help give voice to those artists, but those artists are giving voice to their own story,” said Tyler Wasson, a psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.
The show is the brainchild of Wasson, who developed the concept as a postdoctoral project to connect with the LBGTQA community.
“It was a backburner idea in case the others didn’t work,” he said. “When I graduated with my doctorate, I took an oath. And in this oath, I committed to standing up, supporting the marginalized and giving voice to the voiceless. That’s what’s behind this art show to me.”
Six artists, of which five are FIU students, contributed to Bend through photography, multimedia and mixed media. Together, the works complement each other and helped form the theme of the show.
The pieces in the show highlight the concepts of sexual identity and gender.
A charcoal and color pastel piece by Carlos-Miguel Rivas, Cassandra, captures the secret life of a biological male beginning to discover a feminine inner self. According to the artist’s statement, the look on her face expresses the fear when a family member walks in on her experimenting with make-up and female clothes. A series of photos by Natalie Merola display both behind-the-scenes and performance cross-dressing in Miami.
An audio-visual loop of Vogue: A Photo and Sound Documentary by Daniela Montoya investigates the social performance and the interpersonal relationships formed around and through vogue. “Vogue” is a dance style characterized by model-like poses with angular, linear and rigid arm, leg and body movements. It was popularized in 1990 by Madonna and a documentary, Paris is Burning.
But the concept of bending gender and identity didn’t stop at the artwork on the walls.
“For the opening, we originally wanted to have vogueing or a drag show,” he said. “Then, I thought jazz would be great because it’s an art form born out of slavery – born from marginalized people. Jazz takes notes, harmonies and rhythms, and bends them – plays with them – in ways other styles have not.”
Wasson says that there are plans to make the show an annual occurrence and hopes that more students will get involved and submit their work for consideration. Although each year he has given artists the option to remain anonymous, none have taken him up on the offer.
“It proves that there is interest and that people want to do this,” he says.
The show has also attracted attention from The Miami Herald, The Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and LBGT Visitor Center on Miami Beach.
Bend is on display at The Frost Art Museum through June 11. Admission is free.