Friday, November 8, 2019

Who Owns the Landscape?

For the 2019 Boxo program, I wanted to hosts artists and raise awareness around several historically underrepresented communities. As part of the queer community in the hi desert, I was interested in what type of project proposal would come from someone making art from a specifically queer perspective. Via a friend, I contacted Visual AIDS, the amazing NYC-based organization that does important work around art, AIDS and the wider queer context. Through Visual AIDS, I was introduced to Ben Cuevas and was immediately intrigued by his amazing knit artworks.


 
Ben and I spoke on the phone and he told me that he could not take the time off work to do a full residency. As I had done before, I suggested a "low residency residency" involving several weekends of research in Joshua Tree, making the work in LA and then an exhibition back at the BoxoPROJECTS studio. Ben was thrilled at the idea and we began to plan.



Ben first visited in October 2018 and I hosted a meeting of the local Queer Salon series to welcome him and introduce him to the local community. Over the weekend, Ben drove around the area and became fascinated by the rock formations. Once back in LA, Ben was ready to scope an approach. Although his work usually involves the body, he proposed making a series of wall hangings depicting the landscape. He came across a knitting technique called fagotted fringe which was perfect for the purpose and also wanted to incorporate macrame. In this way, Ben was challenging the white hetero-normative depiction of landscape, inserting a queer interpretation and using techniques often associated with ethnic and low art practices.


Ben scheduled to come back in December to capture imagery for the project and I was able to arrange for him to give a workshop at the Palm Springs Art Museum Teen Academy where he presented his practice and worked with the students to challenge the gendered constructs and physical limitations of craft through knitting. He spent a lot of time in the National Park with a Polaroid camera through which he captured the subjects for his works.




Queering the Landscape, Ben's wonderful installation of large scale wall hangings and associated polaroids opened February 2nd 2019 and ran for six weeks. Thank you to Ben for sharing his unique perspective with the local community and creating such a successful exhibition. 
 

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