“Identity Measures,” an exhibit currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, explores the concept of identity by combining artistic materials and genres.
The Open Call exhibition features queer and transgender artists, shining a light on the multifaceted conversations that surround individuality through the lens of contemporary visual art. The exhibit runs through Saturday, Oct. 5 and features the work of 23 artists from the New Orleans area.
Dr. Jordan Amirkhani, guest curator for the exhibit, was interested in how institutions include or exclude people and communities from their spaces, and she used this interest to select the works for the exhibit.
“I would say identity is about all of the sort of subjectivities we have, and their constant dynamic changes,” Amirkhani said. “I wanted it to be a very diverse show, not just in terms of the kinds of bodies or practitioners, but also in terms of the kinds of materials and genres that people were working in…. Identity is really about celebrating difference.”
“Identity Measures” includes artwork from Sarah Hill and Andy Thompson, two openly transgender artists.
“Mark,” a multimedia work by Hill, combines documents with a video to create a memorial for a fictional transgender man. The piece combines autobiography and fiction to emphasize the absence of transgender people in mainstream history, Hill said, whether they were forced to hide because of safety concerns, lacked access to medical resources, or were outright erased from history.
Identity shifts and changes throughout a person’s life, along with the situations that they’re in, Hill said. The same is true for Hill’s identity, which has evolved over time.
“Although [“Mark”] is fiction, there’s truth to it,” Hill said. “And there’s memories that haven’t been recorded, and if a viewer can take time to reflect on that, that would be amazing.”
Andy Thompson’s “Love to Know You” is a series of 24 six-inch-by-six-inch abstract gouache paintings representing Thompson’s loved ones and lover. The ambiguity of the images that Thompson creates speaks to the trans experience, especially considering the disconnect between internal and external self-image that many trans people become familiar with over the course of their lives.
The exhibit’s theme of identity made it a perfect fit for the concepts that the artwork explores, Thompson said.
“For me, I think identity really has a lot to do with how somebody walks through the world, like someone’s experience of being,” they said. “Especially since I make abstract work, I’m taking the in-between spaces [of identity] and sitting in them.”
“Being who you are, whether it’s difficult for you or not, is worth something,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, I just want to, in making my work, be comfortable in my identity and in my love, and hope that other people can feel that way too.”
The Contemporary Arts Center at 900 Camp Street is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday.