On November 2nd, a diverse and vibrant full-capacity audience of artists, supporters, and allies gathered for the first annual Queer|Art|Prize at Manhattan’s Hudson Mercantile. Queer|Art filled the cavernous space with dynamic installations and performances celebrating the thriving state of queer art today, and honored photographer Catherine Opie and rising multimedia artist and director Reina Gossett with awards recognizing their significant contributions to queer culture. Opie was acknowledged in the category of Sustained Achievement, while Gossett received the award for Recent Work for her intimately political animated short, “The Personal Things.”
REINA GOSSETT ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:
“I am so honored to be awarded with the Recent Work award. It is truly meaningful to bring the conversation back to Miss Major, who this film is about—meaningful to bring all of the people who have been relegated and denigrated into the background to the foreground. I want to say that queer art to me is about really centering the people and the voices that are most vulnerable, the people who history often forgets.Whenever we get a chance to say ‘actually your voice matters—actually, not only does your voice matter, but you’re part of the reason why we’re here today looking so fabulous’—that is a thing to celebrate.”
CATHERINE OPIE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH:
Accepting her award in a filmed statement, raising a glass from California, Catherine Opie said, “I want to thank the Queer/Art/Prize and HBO for bestowing upon me this great honor of Sustainable Achievement. ‘Sustainable achievement’ right now is an interesting thing to think about in our life. After 30 years of making work in relationship to my own identity as a lesbian, or radical dyke, so to speak, sustainable achievement should be thought about not in terms of myself as an artist, but what we all can do to sustain visibility within our own community.”
The evening also featured select performances, introduced via the whacky charm of comedian/performance artist Erin Markey. Recent Work Finalist and voguing sensation Kia LaBeija performed live, and singer/soul artist Shea Diamond gifted audiences with a performance of her anthemic track, “I Am Her.” DJ May Kwok set the exhilarating tone for the evening, weaving between house, pop, and hip hop, and culminating the event with a lively dance party.
Before and after the awards ceremony, Queer/Art/Prize attendees encountered numerous video installations that gave a sweeping view of the scope of queer expression with which Queer|Art has been affiliated; works by artists who have participated in the organization’s programs since 2009 danced across installations of stacked vintage TV sets. In a separate area, music videos from the likes of New York cabaret legend Justin Vivian Bond, M. Lamar, Shea Diamond, and Alynda Segarra’s Hurray for the Riff Raff played in loop at designated listening/viewing stations, and across the space, an expansive vinyl installation displayed texts from queer literary figures. An additional installation commissioned specifically for this event —The Queer|Art Community Portrait Project—featured a series of recent portraits of artists and organizers who are part of the Queer|Art community, by photographer Eric McNatt.
Photo credits from top to bottom: 1. Reina Gossett Acceptance Speech by Vanessa Haroutunian 2. Erin Markey by Ryan Kobane 3. Shea Diamond by Ryan Kobane 4.Kia LaBeilja by Ryan Kobane 5. Video Installation by Ryan Kobane 6. Select Portraits from the First Annual Queer|Art Community Portrait Project by Eric McNatt (Clockwise from top left: Barbara Hammer, Chris Blue, Jess Barbagallo, David Thomson).
Thank you to all our artists and supporters who came out to celebrate with us! The evening could not have been possible without the generous support of HBO and the brilliant event design and production by our friends at The Gathery.