LAWRENCE – Don’t expect an ordinary art opening Friday, Nov. 18, when “The Law for Falling Bodies: A Queer Print Media Exhibition” debuts at Kansas City’s Charlotte Street Foundation.
There will be some flat, framed prints hanging on the walls. There will be animations and large, three-dimensional forms that stick out from the ceiling. Black-and white forms will be competing for attention alongside a riot three-dimensional colored objects.
Shawn Bitters, associate professor of visual art at the University of Kansas, has curated the show with former graduate student-turned-collaborator Matthew Willie Garcia. Bitters and Garcia also collaborated on one of the show’s main installation components, which, as of a few days before opening, they had yet to title.
“Growing up queer, you are told to be quiet,” Bitters said. “You’re not acting right. You are not conforming to the expectations of what a boy and a girl should do. I have been too much for certain people. That feeling is something that many of us have felt. We’ve been suppressed our whole lives and tried to fit in with the accepted categories. To make this show too overwhelming, it’s a metaphor. We’re like, no, this is what we are, and we’re embracing it, and this is a new, different aesthetic.”
Bitters stated that Garcia, he and other artists will have the opportunity to display both traditional and expanded printing techniques.
“I’m always working on taking a two-dimensional print and then treating it like a three-dimensional object,” Bitters said. “Of course, there’s really no such thing as 2D, because everything has matter. However, I love to make the illusion that something is three-dimensional. Then I place it in a real space to play with your perception of depth. It must be realistic, and you can believe for a second that it is. And then, as you move in and you see that it’s two-dimensional, that illusion collapses, and you’re left questioning your perception of what you consider to be a landscape or an environment.”
For his part, Garcia said, “my work usually stays pretty flat, and then the animation adds depth to it.”
He, too, said he wanted to play with the viewer’s sense of reality.
“I want things to be questioned,” he said, “like what is surface; what is real? There are static parts to the animation that remain in place throughout the entire time. It fools the eye into believing it is a printed surface. It’s actually just a projected animation that’s been stilled through the entire animation.”
All of it, Bitters said, “is about creating alternate places, alternate realities, where, as queer people, we can feel that we’re at home.”
The exhibition will be open until Jan. 7, 2023. It should appeal to a broad audience.
“I think that anytime you encounter a new way of thinking,” Bitters said, “and if you come to know people who are kind of marginalized, or off on their own, or a different culture on the other side of the planet, that experience helps you to realize, ‘Oh, wait, why do I live the way I live? Why do I have all these assumptions that this is the way to live your life, when these people do it completely differently?’”
Top Image: Co-curators and artistic collaborators Matthew Willie Garcia (left) and Shawn Bitters prepare “The Law for Falling Bodies: A Queer Print Media Exhibition,” opening Nov. 18 at the Charlotte Street Foundation. Credit: Rick Hellman, KU News Service.
Right image: Shawn Bitters: “Day of Rest,” 2021