Exploring the Closet

Jason Huang

At the top of a dimly-lit flight of stairs, tucked away in a third floor apartment overlooking busy 18th street is Queer Thoughts (QT), a new apartment gallery in Pilsen focusing on the exploration of queer thought through art. The space is curated by Sam Lipp and Luis Bendaña, two recent SAIC graduates. With QT, they hope to create a dynamic that will distinguish it from other apartment galleries. “Student-run galleries are diverse, but they are not a really controlled environment…. We wanted to separate the living from the exhibit space…this lends to a more captivating space” say Bendaña and Lipp.

QT approximates the feel of a private gallery, with an area of uniformly white adjoining rooms, separated from the rest of the apartment by a dark curtain. Interestingly, the open space outside of the gallery is more spacious than the exhibit area itself. Lipp acknowledges this: “The gallery is basically a closet,” he said. He’s not joking–it would only take six people to fill the entire gallery, and they would have to face opposing directions to fit.

Their current exhibit is “Oh My Goddess,” a collaborative exhibit featuring the work of Kevin Champoux, Elyse Derosia, Jamie Fletcher, Matt Morris, and Michelle Daniela Villarreal. The gallery only holds six pieces of art, ranging from ink prints to painted works. Each work occupies its own wall. Though it may be possible to tease out connections between adjoining pieces, the gallery does not present the pieces in any particular order.

Nonetheless, as you step into the room, you cannot miss the first piece–a half hemisphere glued to the wall at eye’s height. As small as a toy bouncy ball one might get from a middle school’s harvest carnival, this work, an untitled found object, adds a pop of color to the bleached gallery. The largest artwork appears to be a reverse silhouette of an amorphous man with slight indentations of human features. The black and white oil and acrylic work effuses a haunting aura that contrasts with the feel of the other pieces in the gallery. On another wall, “I’m Busy”, a piece by Derosia, contains three hands wringing each other in anxiety. In “Oh My Goddess,” the delicate and the surreal are separated by only a few feet.

One striking installation was an untitled piece by Morris, an MFA student at Northwestern University. A grey paint swatch stands at stomach’s level on the wall. The swatch was barely visible by sight; in fact, as he discussed his art, Morris had to directly draw attention to the painting. His work is drawn from queer theory and the place of queer life in mainstream culture. Morris describes his art as phenomenological, intending for the audience to see the art before they name it. “There is the potential for the viewer to renegotiate the world around them,” Morris said. The gray smudge barely registers to the viewer as it sneaks away from her sight.

Queer Thoughts hopes to bring both the spirit of Chicago and the perspective of artists from other cities to its walls. “We want to show work that is forward thinking…a sort of reappropriation of the word queer,” said Lipp. This gallery is one to keep an eye on, as it has had three exhibitions since June. Paradoxically, the very limited space at QT is the perfect environment for expanding one’s perspective on art.

Queer Thoughts Gallery, 1640 W. 18th Street #3. October 5-28. Hours by appointment through qtgallery@gmail.com. Free. qtgallery.net

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