On Display

To give you a feel for what the gay wax museum will feature, here are descriptions from a couple of contributing artists.

Name: Paige Gratland

Home Base: Vancouver, BC

How do you identify? Canadian artist, queer

PGP (Preferred Gender Pronoun): She

The installation: My installation references a previous body of work called Celebrity Lezbian Fist (2008) in which I cast the hands of famed and favorite queer cultural icons. For the gay wax museum, I will ceremonially add Cynthia Slater's fist to the collection with honorary stand-in, pioneering theorist Gayle Rubin. The materials of the installation are wax, leather, and Crisco.

I first read about Cynthia Slater in Patrick Moore's book Beyond Shame. The image of her as the only female participant at the Catacombs, a late Seventies gay male fisting club in San Francisco, stayed with me. Her fearless pursuit of pleasure and transcendence changed the sexual culture around her, also influencing the late 1980s/early Nineties Los Angeles sex-and-art scene, typified by Ron Athey, Catherine Opie, and Bob Flanagan. Slater advocated for safe sex practices, AIDS education, consent, mixed gender/mixed orientation play spaces and support groups. Plus, as Gayle Rubin points out in her essay "The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole," Slater brought other women into the Catacombs and consequently "taught lesbians how to party."

How do you hope viewers of the gay wax museum will react? Any way they want, that's our queer right!

Name: Sailor Holladay

Home Base: Portland, Oregon

How do you identify? I represent the stealthy female-assigned, female-perceived, post-testosterone, still-trans-but-with-female-passing-privilege people. I get paid to help low-income people build assets around Oregon, write film reviews, and edit other people's writing. I also write creative nonfiction and am completing a memoir; I stitch and crochet ambitious textile projects, and watch a lot of film.

PGP (Preferred Gender Pronoun): I try to use pronouns for myself as little as possible, but she and they are fine.

The installation: One of my collaborators, Kate Robinson, and I responded to a call that Silky put out a few years ago. We pulled in our friend Heather Hall, a sound artist and electronic musician, and have been basking in the project for the last few months. Our scene centers around a visual interpretation of Gertrude Stein's poem, "Lifting Belly." In our scene, Stein and Alice B. Toklas are in a room engaged in cunnilingus with objects from Stein's book Tender Buttons shelved and strewn around them. Each object has a number and visitors can participate in a cell-phone tour of the objects. Each Tender Buttons object has a different queer woman who recorded her voice reading the work. There are over 30 queer women who've recorded these Tender Buttons objects. And there is an accompanying booklet with the Tender Buttons poems, contributor portraits, bios, alongside their thoughts on cunnilingus, desire, and nostalgia. Both Kate Robinson and I have Gertrude Stein-themed tattoos; hers is a portrait of Gertrude and mine consists of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas' names. Gertrude represents the outliers, the exiles, the gender non-conforming, the language non-conforming, the sapiosexual.

How do you hope viewers of the gay wax museum will react? Experimental writing, like other experiments, can put us temporarily in the society that we want to live in. My hope is that our viewers will see our installation and Gertrude's language as a temporary autonomous zone where their desires (and by desire I mean something they want that hasn't happened yet) are necessary to create the society we want.

  • More of the Story

  • Waxing Queer

    Performance artist Silky Shoemaker opens the doors to queer culture's lost past with her gay wax museum

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