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Friday February 3rd

'A universal language': Durham art show highlights LGBTQ+ perspectives

"I Could Not For the Life of Me, Hold On" by Cephoni Adams. Photo courtesy of Cephoni Adams.
Buy Photos "I Could Not For the Life of Me, Hold On" by Cephoni Adams. Photo courtesy of Cephoni Adams.

An art exhibit in Durham this weekend will showcase talent from the North Carolina LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ Center of Durham and Pleiades Arts co-curated Queer Lens, an art show that opens Friday at The Fruit art space in Durham.

 “Our mission is to create art exhibits and experiences that draw attention to social justice, inclusion, voice and story,” said Pleiades Board President Renee Leverty, describing both Queer Lens and Pleiades.

 The exhibit displays the work of 20 LGBTQ+ artists who live across North Carolina, many of whom will be at the opening reception at 5 p.m. on Sept. 27. 

The exhibit is free and open to the public. It will be displayed at The Fruit through Sept. 29 and will continue at the LGBTQ Center of Durham from Oct. 7 to Oct. 31. 

Cephoni Adams, one of the exhibit’s featured artists, emphasized the value of sharing LGBTQ+ narratives both within the LGBTQ+ community and with the rest of the world. 

“It’s important to recognize what our queer brothers and sisters go through and experience in their day-to-day lives,” Adams said. “How we respond to the negativity in our lives is far more reflective of our character than getting caught up in the details.”

 Adams’ painting is titled "I Could Not For the Life of Me, Hold On." The piece depicts two hands reaching out to each other from opposing sides of the canvas. Adams said this piece draws inspiration from the experience of a loved one having a drug addiction.

“Despite the negative influence in the title or the history, this piece is relatively hopeful in its colors and imagery,” Adams said. “I have a similar outlook on my queer identity in staying positive and presenting an image of hope.”  

 Another artist, Mx. Chris Nicholson, designed a piece specifically for this show. Nicholson, an intersex artist from Bullock, North Carolina, submitted a painting called "Intersex Activism." 

The piece features the silhouette of a crowd of people marching against the striking yellow background of the intersex flag. This represents the fight for intersex visibility, equal rights and fair treatment in the medical world, Nicholson said.

"Intersex Activism" by Chris Nicholson. Photo courtesy of Chris Nicholson.

Intersex people are born with chromosomal, reproductive or genital variations that do not match the standard definition of male or female. A frequent variation is the presence of XXY sex chromosomes, medically defined as Klinefelter Syndrome.

“The intersex community is trying to get away from being called a syndrome, because we’re natural,” Nicholson said. “We’re as common as people born with red hair.”

Previously, Nicholson’s artwork focused primarily on nature and animals, but Queer Lens inspired them to experiment more with social and political themes.

 “It’s a little different than most of my art, because it’s very representative and has a lot of symbolism,” Nicholson said. 

Not only did "Intersex Activism" push the creator out of their artistic comfort zone, it affords the viewer a better understanding of the intersex community’s movement for equality.

Using media ranging from acrylic paint to sculpture, the work of Queer Lens all shares a common theme: giving voice to the LGBTQ+ community and highlighting perspectives that may be overlooked in the mainstream.

“Art is a universal language,” Adams said. “If you look at art and react — whether it’s a reaction that was intended by the artist or a reaction that is personal to your experience — you’ve allowed yourself to look at something from a new perspective.”


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