On display: 'Coming Out' art exhibition
'Coming Out: Sexuality, Identity and Gender' is a diverse art exhibition, curated to celebrate 50 years since the partial discrimination of male homosexual acts in England and Wales in 1967.
The exhibition showcases the work of over eighty LGBTQ+ artists and is not only a response to the artists’ personal experiences with sexuality but an exploration of issues faced by the community over the past fifty years. The exhibition serves as a voice for many members of the LGBTQ+ community; a group of people used to living in suppression, as part of an underground subculture.
However, in an increasingly accepting and diverse age, is there such need for LGBTQ+ exclusive exhibitions. Are we reinforcing LGBTQ+ as a separate subculture by continuing to exclude it from the mainstream? Would we serve better to explore sexuality as a whole, regardless of gender?
Reflexive explores the taboo surrounded by gender and sexual identity by asking four individuals for their opinions on the questions: In this era do we need 'gay' anything? Are we reinforcing a subculture, instead of bringing it into the mainstream?
(Some of the names used in the article have been changed for anonymity)
Audrey, Straight, 82.
"I believe that art talks for itself. Being gay is fine, I have nothing against that at all, but, I still stand by the fact that you should let art talk for itself and just be yourself without bringing sexuality or gender into it. Going back through hundreds of years there have been a lot of artists that have been gay, and yes, their sexuality wasn't talked about, it was kept under wraps, but I don't think that using your sexuality to define your artwork is right- art is a thing on its own.
Gay artists do not need to hide away, but your sexuality/ gender is something that is personal to you and isn't necessary for art...but then again, why shouldn't they express it in art? There is definitely a for and against towards the exhibition. When I was younger, my colleague at work was gay and he was openly gay, yet his sister [who was also gay] always lived with a 'lady friend'- she was never open as it was kept more decreet in those days.
Are gay artists coming out through the mediums of art to make them more agreeable to others, I wonder? Society has made it very hard for gay people to come out, so they have to use art to come out as words are too hard for them. For equality, artists needn't put out their beliefs or who they are in an exhibition dedicated to sexuality. They should show their same work, but in other exhibitions to normalise different sexualities."
Ruby, Gay, 22.
"My interpretation of what constitutes full equality is the recognition and celebration of differences where no group is seen as ‘more than’ or ‘better than’. I think sometimes under maybe the well-intentioned guise of equality. People, especially belonging to a majority group, sometimes take the stance that if people want to be treated the same we should ignore any and all differences. I personally do not see why treating people with the same respect and dignity as one another involves disregarding different life experiences.
With respect to the topic of the exhibit, I think it is entirely appropriate that the work showcased is that belonging to LGBTQ+ artists. It allows a point of view to be told that is often silenced or ignored and from a place of truth. The LGBTQ+ experience and other minorities’ experiences should not be discouraged from being told instead celebrated and listened instead of dampened and assimilated into the ‘mainstream’."
Angela, Bisexual, 21.
"I feel like there is a need for there to be more representation in the mainstream media to help LGBTQ+ grow and be more socially accepted into society. I believe that it helps to have one exhibit entirely dedicated to LGBTQ+. On the other hand, it also doesn’t help it and keeps the community in its own bubble.
I think there’s a lot of importance in ‘Coming Out’ and while this is an LGBTQ+ exhibit it focuses on that experience and the importance of the community to anyone. Although it does support the subculture of straight and gays being completely separate. The art exhibit is a really good idea and helps show off the community."
Molly, Bisexual, 19.
"Although there is an argument that enforcing the LGBTQ community by allowing them opportunities like the ‘Coming Out’ art exhibit simply enforces the idea that the LGBTQ community is separate to the mainstream, the fact that ‘Coming Out’ is a public, touring exhibition about the history of the community, as well giving LGBTQ artists opportunities, is empowering to the community in terms of what they have achieved so far and where they are now. Representation is important, but the whole premise of the artwork is all to do with the history of the LGBTQ community like the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and artistic responses to that. It's not just that if you're gay or queer your art is automatically in the exhibition, it is an exhibition celebrating and remembering the history and movements within the community which I think is really empowering and positive, especially as they go into detail about quite taboo subjects. By doing this, I feel the LGBTQ+ community will become more integrated, rather than be the preconceived idea of being on the fringes of society."
If you would like to find out more about the 'Coming Out: Sexuality, Identity and Gender' exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Arts Gallery then click here