Arts & Life, Fine & Performing Arts, Photo Gallery

New York LGBTQ+ counterculture at the Kleefeld Museum launch of “Drag Show”

The courtyard was bustling with students, alumni and faculty from the bar to the activities table. As drag queens captivated the crowd, visitors were also able to peruse the main gallery to catch a glimpse at some of the artworks within the “Drag Show” fine art exhibition.

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Shruti More, a senior majoring in criminology with a minor in sociology, works security at the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum.

“We allow students to come in on Thursday nights and create their own artwork. It kinda gives them the time to step away from their homework,” More said.

The event hosted activities outside the exhibit, like this arts and crafts table. Annette Choi cuts out a dragon using construction paper and scissors provided to participants.
The event hosted activities outside the exhibit, like this arts and crafts table. Annette Choi cuts out a dragon using construction paper and scissors provided to participants. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

Upon entering the museum, visitors step into the Constance W. Glenn Court, named after the founder of the university art museum, where they may leave belongings at the desk and experience the first installation.

09/14/2023 - Long Beach, Calif: Bowie Harvey creates her own art piece at the interactive table. She is four years old and was visiting the exhibit with her mother.
Bowie Harvey creates her own art piece at the interactive table. She is four years old and was visiting the exhibit with her mother. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

Walking past an interactive art installation which may easily be mistaken for spilled candy, visitors are invited to take a piece of candy from a pile on the floor. The visitors who take candy are completing an exchange between themselves and the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

This spilled candy is one of Torres’ famous candy-spill works, Untitled (LA), 1991, acting as an introduction before entering the main gallery exhibit. Torres’ art often invokes viewers to interact with his installations and may exist across countless museums at one time varying in weight and configuration. As visitors take candy from the spill, the visual is intended to function as a representation of the way AIDS wilts the human body.

The main gallery features polaroid images from photographers Linda Simpson, David Yarritu and a few others. The featured artists, like Nan Goldin, use their work to represent the period of history when AIDS disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community in the ’80s and ’90s.

Melina Riviera, a first-year transfer student and anthropology major, expressed the emotions she felt when confronting some of the pieces.

“It definitely evokes some feelings of realizing how lucky I am to be LGBT now versus back then,” said Riviera. “I feel a lot of gratefulness, and it’s just so beautiful to see that it’s being recognized on a university scale.”

Jewels Long Beach twirls around while she performs for the crowd at the "Drag Show" exhibit. The Kleefeld is located on lower campus near the College of Business.
Jewels Long Beach twirls around while she performs for the crowd at the “Drag Show” exhibit. The Kleefeld is located on lower campus near the College of Business. Photo credit: Mark Siquig

Visitors who walk through the main gallery also have a chance to view a section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt is a mixed-media art piece woven together by panels of fabric, part of a huge community folk-art project. The quilt celebrates the lives of the many individuals who died due to AIDS-related illness.

The exhibit is expected to stay open during the fall semester through Dec. 15. More information can be found on the Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum website.

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