Phoenix Lindsey-Hall was a senior in high school when Matthew Shepard, a student at University of Wyoming, died from a violent hate crime. Shepard had left a bar with two strangers who drove him to a remote field, beat and tortured him. It was also the year she had come out. And the wooden fence where Shepard was left tied for 18 hours in freezing temperatures – an image plastered on the cover of TIME magazine – was deeply carved into her memory.
“I knew I always had this piece [‘Shepard’] coming since then,” said Lindsey-Hall, whose work largely focuses on queer hate crimes.
‘Shepard’ – the first solo exhibit at Christopher Stout Gallery in East Williamsburg – is a 16-foot-long bisque white porcelain fence modeled after the one where Shepard was found in 1998. Lindsey-Hall chose porcelain because it is reminiscent of bones and represents the systematic vulnerability of hate crime that victims often face.
“The thing about porcelain is that it’s just clay – just earth,” she said. “Because this event happened out in nature under the big, beautiful Wyoming sky and we’re talking about life and death, I wanted to bring that nature back to this raw gallery space.”
Ten other artists and their work – equally intense, thoughtful and provocative – accompany Lindsey-Hall’s solo exhibit until Nov. 2. Throughout the next year, Christopher Stout will curate month-long solo exhibits to incubate difficult and subversive dialogue through visual art.
Read on to find out more about the exhibit as described by the artists in their own words.
Like A Hurricane
“This piece is called ‘Like a Hurricane’ (yes, like the Neil Young song) and it’s a memorial for a friend named Blake Ferris, who died from addiction to Dust-Off. It was really a shame to lose him. He was a very gifted and smart artist, editor and photographer. Blake was a difficult person – very hard to love, but he needed love like anybody else. His friends heard the title “Like a Hurricane” and they got it instantly. For us, it was like, ‘I want to love you but I’m getting blown away,’ because he’d just push us away. Then there’s the pun of how he got blown away by the Dust-Off.”
The Bees Know What to Do
“My format is usually very long – this piece is 24 minutes. Most performances last several hours. I draw a lot of inspiration from this call to queerness, in which you continue to seek pleasure but also to constantly endure in a society that may or may not be accepting. Although that narrative is changing very rapidly today, it’s taken so much endurance from this community and that’s a large reason why my pieces last so long. In a way, it’s about getting through the performance — this performance of a queer body.”
Andrew Cornell Robinson
Tarred & Feathered
“For a while I’d spent some time out in the Hamptons in the 90s and I found myself at these funny parties and fundraisers surrounded by very elegant people. I noticed these magazines celebrating A-list society people on the streets, so I started collecting them. As I was looking at that part of our culture, I was living in a part of Brooklyn that was devastated and poor. It was interesting to be able to walk in both of those worlds. I started tarring and feathering different images in the society magazines, not necessarily out of malice but just to see what would happen to bring prestige down a notch. So the piece is about exploring that tension between classes but it’s also a little bit of fun, too.”
Anne Sherwood Pundyk
White Hot (For Julia)
“I work generally in a very large, monumental scale but I also do these small pieces which I consider to be like a protective hex – a vocabulary I use for the combination of these chaotic spills interwoven with a simple yet active geometry. As I’m building the piece, there’s a back-and-forth conversation happening between geometry and colors. The notion of the protective hex emanates the uncorrupted feeling of paintings that you are safe. I named the piece for my older sister, who’s a beautiful artist as well, who had a very serious stroke about 2 weeks ago, to bring the power of healing to her as she recuperates.”
This is Moon (For Hannah)
“The background image is painting of a photo I took some time ago of the summer solstice– a beautiful, still, balmy night when I was walking alone. I wanted to make a bridge between the space that exists in the past and the one of the present. The hands in the foreground of the painting belong to my partner and I. I wanted to layer the intimate and meaningful moments in different time periods of my life.”
“I made these helmets that eliminate your sight and your peripheral hearing, forcing your hearing into this narrow spectrum directly in front of you. This piece is derived out of the fact that when you’re wearing the helmet, you are completely unaware of anybody else that might be watching you. Something that was most exciting when I was wearing these helmets was the moment you break yourself away from your social surroundings you start to see the world in a way that is decontextualized. It becomes this attempt to start to see the world once again as you might have when you were first born, when nothing had meaning and when nothing had context and when everything was just there, and stuff existing as seemingly meaningless object.”
These Truths Are Self Evident
“To me, my art is most often a dialogue between power structures and myself. The pieces at the Christopher Stout Gallery exhibition are part of a 13-piece series – where all the pieces are in dialogue with one another. Each truth represents a lesson I had learned or something I thought it might be important for a younger artist to know.”
Escape From New York
“My video deals with escapism. As Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s sculpture reflects upon the environment concerning Matthew Shepard’s death, my work is about escaping from such a world. I aim to create a new imagined space, by incorporating themes of fantasy versus reality, removal and escapism, lightness and darkness, and loss and hope. I wanted to show this video in particular as a prelude to my forthcoming solo show at the gallery.”
“My video ‘Stacy’ is an investigation into the human form, body mechanics, movement, sexuality and sensuality through a genderless lens. I thought it was especially poignant to show this work alongside Phoenix’s solo ‘Shepard’.”
“I chose this as a complication of identity politics. The use of occult iconography is not only part of my practice but is also intentionally directed at liberal and academic biases that one might view it as irresponsible, frivolous or superstitious. I’m interested self-guided evolution, and I sometimes imagine that the human race is evolving into a genderless species. I’m not particularly bothered by the idea.”
Photos and introduction by Ariel Min.