Queer Scouts

Posted on: March 28, 2017
Views: 2792


Community connectivity is vital to the creation of visibility and positive identity growth. The celebration of community achievements also provides the space to continue this interconnectedness and dialogue. Richardson?s project titled Queer Scouts is the beginning of a long term exploration into the nuanced complexities of the queer experience. A grey vest adorned with triangular badges is reminiscent of the model of the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. The pink triangle was originally used in Nazi concentration camps as a badge identifier of male prisoners sent there for of their homosexuality. Originally a symbol of shame, it was inverted and reclaimed as an international symbol of gay pride. Richardson?s Queer Scouts are able to earn badges for a variety of achievements, which are outlined in the accompanying Queer Scout Handbook. The achievements outlined are sometimes funny or tongue-in-cheek as a way of combatting the absurdity of many questions still posed to queer individuals, such as whether or not scissoring is really a thing. Other items are unfortunately things that perhaps shouldn?t be achievements at all, such as surviving to the age of 25, when the likelihood of suicide for LGBT individuals finally begins to decrease. Like the pink triangle, Richardson attempts to reclaim power over the hardships of queer people, instead using them as a badge of strength and accomplishment.

Through fostering an inclusive environment, shared narratives, collective achievements, and the possibilities of working together Queer Scouts bring together a network of individuals who are able to empower themselves through communal understanding. Like the appropriated model of girl and boy scouts, creating a space for collective growth also creates opportunity for individual strength. With this strength viewers and participants feel empowered make deeper connections to themselves and others, as well as find pride in the physical bodies and phenomenological experiences that exist because of them. This project provides a pedagogical component that applies to a variety of audiences for the sake of spreading awareness or information. But for the queer audience specifically, there is an even deeper level of affect in finding strength in a collective and knowing one?s narrative is both heard and shared by others.

Other Projects by Shelby Wynne Richardson

Shelby Wynne Richardson

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MFA Student

Major: Sculpture

Graduation Year: 2017

Artist Statement:

Queer, for many, acts as an identifier. A proclamation of otherness or an unapologetic refusal to define oneself in the language of a culture not their own. Yet, most often queer acts strongest as verb. Queer: an action taken to dismantle that which does not apply. Queering spaces to give purpose. Queering materials and language to provide beacons and reminders of hope. Queering our narratives. Queerings the rules.

Through various methods of visibility, such as material culture or community driven discourse, my work aims to create lesbian cultural space for growth and empowerment. The reclamation of language, narratives, and sex positive dialogue works in opposition to patriarchal expectations and provides a sense of support for those feeling their stories are not part of the larger constellation of disenfranchised “others”. The reality is that queer bodies, specifically queer female bodies, need each other now more than ever.

Capitalizing on the perceptibility of certain materials and the overperformance of oneself, I begin to explore and push the boundaries of identity; reclaiming the underbelly of the visual culture while shining visibility on the queerness of my existence. Rooted between many places I am constantly drawing influence from the Instagram famous, those who wear their “plastic-ness” on their sleeves, and embrace fully the absurdity and spectacle of the feminine, and yet my life has never existed without the legacy and tradition of craft resting firmly on my shoulders.

The specificity of my materials is many times as important as my content, as I search for ways to utilize inherent metaphors or aesthetic qualities to reinforce my continued visual narratives. Through building these narratives surrounding queer female identity I contribute to the ontological experience of collective storytelling in which those who experience feelings of “otherness” find personal reclamation in the identification of a space made just for them. Through my use of adornment, glitter, and kitsch I elevate these materials while at the same time making cultural space for those who share in feelings of cultural invisibility.

I can see you. Do you see me too?