Queers Only Night: Art & Kiki (Recap)

NO STRAIGHTS ALLOWED!!

NO EXCEPTIONS!!

35mm film shot by @NotRadMelissa

"Sometimes....It's ok to gatekeep. lol"

GA(Y)TEKEEPING?

Gatekeeping can be defined as "the activity of controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something." In urban dictionary terms it means  "when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity."


This has been an interesting concept for me. Where are the lines drawn? Who gets the ultimate say? Why do these gates exist in the first place? What does it even mean to be Queer?

35mm film shot by @NotRadMelissa

The idea of "sometimes it's ok to gatekeep" first came about when I was preparing for my debut solo show Red Thoughts.


I was painting in the BLVE ROSE gallery on Halloween night. While everyone was out partying it up at the clubs and bars down the street, I was working away, finishing up the last couple of paintings.


Sometime past midnight, a ton of people began to leave the bars, one such was a group of three gay boys. As they walked past the gallery in their Halloween outfits, one of them stopped to see what I was painting. "They seem friendly", I thought to myself, "Plus I could use a break". So I went over and let them in. Immediately they ran in with excitement, in oohs and aaahs of the colorful works half hung up.


We chatted for a couple of minutes about art, Queerness, being Mexican, and pop culture in general. Midway through, two things occurred. The first is, I realized I didn't have many Queer friends in the Inland Empire, I felt like a bit of an outsider. 


Moments after having that thought, we watched dozens of people run down the street. We got a bit scared, so I went over to the door and locked it. As I did, I jokingly told them "you know what, sometimes it's ok to gatekeep". And that was the second realization; marginalized groups sometimes have to take precautious measures to ensure their safety and peace.

Queer Art Painting Draped in red fabric in empty field
35mm film shot by @NotRadMelissa

Friends Of Dorothy

Months went by since that interaction, and I kept thinking about how to express the idea. It was bugging me because I wanted to make a piece of art that only Queer folks will ever see; the only problem was how do I even do that? It's not like I could have special goggles to give to only Queer people to see the art or something....

"I wanted to make a piece of art that only Queer folks will ever see"


I had plenty of talks with my boyfriend about how frustrated I was with seeing straight folks taking up space within our community. It's a tricky issue because on one hand we do want the straights to be less rigid with their views on masculinity, gender roles, etc. On the other hand tho, that doesn't give them the right to take what the Queer community has made for themselves. Some things are meant for us and no one else. 


Then, my boyfriend had the genius idea of having a party for Queers only, and then at the end of the night we would collectively cover the work in red paint to gatekeep it.


I know what you're thinking 1) Why not allies? 2) How will you know who's Queer? 3) What if someone isn't out?


Well...for 1)....sometimes the best thing an ally can do is sit back and be respectful towards a communities request. While I do love the vocal support from allies at events like Pride parades and such, there is a time and place. Just because you are an ally, that does not automatically grant you permission to enter our spaces as you please. It is important to recognize that you can still support someone without participating in their activities directly.


For 2) that was easy, I just asked people I knew who were Queer to join. This was an invite only event, so I personally knew most of the guests anyways. Guests were allowed to bring friends along so long as the people they invite were also Queer. It was like an honor system.


And for 3), at the end of the day, this is just a party and not an end all be all for Queer identification. So, if you weren't comfortable attending because you weren't out, then you just didn't go and thats fine. You can still be Queer and have not attended this.


queer art painting covered with Charli xcx brat album cover, gate kept in field

COME ON QUEERS LETS KIKI!

We settled on the idea of hosting a Kiki, and titling it "Friends of Dorothy: Queer Night Only", after the flamboyant movie The Wizard Of Oz. This event was hosted at The Raincross District in Downtown Riverside On June 1st, the start of Pride month. I even made myself a pair of overalls inspired by Dorthy's iconic blue gingham dress. 


This invite only event was a safe space for everyone to dance, mingle, make friends, and chat about our thoughts on gatekeeping. We had HIGHTENSIONS dj the entire night, keeping the vibes high and gay as it could get, while bubbles floated along the dance floor. There was of course a Photo Booth available for guests to take home a memory with them.


Flyer for Friends of Dorthy queer nights only

Towards the end of the night, when the vibes were just right, we stopped dancing for the final unveiling of the painting. I gave a short speech thanking everyone for attending and explained the purpose for the gathering.


There was a strictly no phones policy during this part of the event. I want no one but the few Queers that were in that room to ever see or even know what the painting was. This is our secret.


Once everyone got a chance to look at the art and speak about it, we all got paint brushes and collectively covered the canvas in a beautiful Cadmium Red oil paint. It was truly heartbreaking to have to cover the original painting, especially because it was probably one of my most personal and vulnerable pieces yet, but I knew it had to be done. Sometimes you need to make sacrifices to make something even more beautiful.


As a thank you to all my fellow Queers, my boyfriend (along with the help from the talented Christopher Brody ) made porcelain keys for the guests. The key was meant to serve as a promise between us, that they would continue to keep this our secret. I was giving them the key to the gate, hoping they will keep their promise. 


Once the canvas was red, phones were out and the party continued.

RED THOUGHTS

No one else will see what once was but us. Everyone else will only see the red shadow of what could have been, and I think there's something beautiful about that. Not everything has to be for the world to see and take, some things are meant to remain a sacred secret. 


The painting was then taken to the Riverside Community Arts Association the very next day. It is to be shown in the gallery's first ever Pride show thanks to curator Gregory Cuellar.  The show will be running from June 6th to July 13th, 2024. If you are in the area, I highly recommend you check out the show and see the work in person!


With that, I am so happy and over the moon with how it came together. I could not ask for a better outcome. This is the start of more in person events, I am so excited for what else I can that follows this in spirit. LET THERE BE MORE QUEER ART!

 

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Charles Sanchez

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