Marriage=Death displayed downtown
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 18:04
Art exhibit “Marriage = Death: A Transqueer Critique of Homonormativity” raises awareness about LGBTQA politics and represents queer art in the Burlington community.
In the exhibit, senior Hannah Melton combines raw, provocative text with objects to take a stance against mainstream queer stereotypes.
Chances are that most people who visit the exhibit will not have previous knowledge that mainstream queerness exists in the queer community, as well as in corporations, Hollywood and the political world.
“Homonormativity is when people who are not straight want to assimilate into hetero-institutions and are interested in fighting for rights, like marriage, that don’t necessarily benefit the queer community as a whole,” Melton said. “We need greater queer representation.”
The queer community has a complicated set of subdivisions, including people of many different races, sexual orientations and social standings; however, according to Melton, many members of the LGBTQ community are starting to abandon queer culture and shun people who don’t fit into a white, Christian, middle-to-upper class stereotype.
Melton argued that the only mainstream gay figures are people like the happy, dancing and Cover Girl glossed Ellen DeGeneres, and Will from television series “Will and Grace.”
In addition, Melton said that marriage rights have become the sole, publicized concern of the queer community, and that other concerns for gay awareness, such as education and health care, have been brutally silenced.
The problems Melton described were magnified by the intensity of the surrounding exhibit.
Many of the pieces presented a queer critique of not only marriage, but also gender conformity and the mainstreaming of LGBTQA politics, bodies, and practices.
Dangling skeletons dressed in torn, rainbow colored linen announced “Just Buried” with Day of the Dead decor and dangling, crushed beer cans.
In the holy grail of Trojan pleasure, limp condoms hung precisely from a wooden board with a heart-shaped foam Valentine that read, “Want me, please me, use me, protect me.”
“There is an intimacy to [the exhibit],” Melton said. “I wanted to focus on gender a lot, but not all of it is necessarily just about gender.”
In “DIY SHALLOWMEN,” a hand-arranged collage of Seven Days’ back covers, Melton scrutinizes American Apparel’s flair for using homoeroticism as a marketing ploy.
In the piece, two girls share their lust for each other in Playboy Bunny suits alongside the message, “don’t just arouse the male population with their lesbian fantasies, shop with us to perpetuate the objectivity of women!”
Posters in the fashion of middle school sex education on male and female reproductive anatomy drip with thick red and blue paint in a horrific yet intriguing show of what Melton describes as a “bio mix-up.”
“The biology of sex and gender is a big part about how we feel about this,” Melton said in reference to the posters. “The male and female reproductive posters introduce a biological mix-up that would switch how we assign gender, educating others on the fact that there is so much variation.”
This fall, Melton will attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and continue their work with the nonprofit Youth Chicago Authors, which introduces high school students to the world of artistic expression.
“If you don’t see those representations out there, it is easy to think you are not normal,” Melton said. “Many kids don’t have influential creative outlets.”
Marriage = Death will run until April 13 at the Allen House Multicultural Gallery from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
*The original story published referred to Melton using the pronoun "she." Melton prefers to use the pronoun "they." The Cynic regrets any confusion caused.