In Dark Corners and Bright Spaces, Beth Schindler Captures Queer Joy & Community

Austin Dyke March organizer opens first solo photography show

Anywhere (photo by Beth Schindler)

Pride flags at the rodeo. Dykes and dive bars. Oil and water.

For queers in Texas, there’s something magical – sacred, even – in marrying things that the straight world deems incompatible.

Multimedia visual artist/space-maker extraordinaire Beth Schindler takes joy in merging these supposed opposites, paying tribute to the dirtbag gay culture that emerges in both shady corners and bright spaces. Also a heavy-lifting organizer of vital community events like Austin Dyke March and Lesbian Wedding, Schindler debuts her first solo photography show, “Like Oil & Water, We Look Good Together in a Parking Lot,” at Prizer Arts & Letters on Feb. 3.

“I’m from Texas – I love being in shitty dive bars, honky tonks, and scary gas stations,” explains native Austinite Schindler. “Those are the places where I feel super connected and that speak to me in so many ways, but I am 100% not safe there. As soon as more than one or two of us come together, we stick out pretty well.

“So, it’s really important to me to create those kinds of spaces where we get to be ourselves and not edit or censor ourselves – to just relax and have a good time.”

Captured on digital cameras and the artist’s trusty Yashica point-and-shoot, Schindler’s upcoming exhibit documents LGBTQ+ existence in spaces explicitly not designed for them. Car culture, from ostentatious trucker hubcaps to melancholic gas stations, serves as a major fixation, filtering the roadside romanticism of Ed Ruscha through a decidedly queer lens.

These seemingly mundane settings act as a backdrop for radical joy and resistance. For Schindler, the title of the exhibit speaks to the beauty of taking up space in an oftentimes hostile world: “It’s that thing that happens when oil and water get together in a parking lot specifically – it turns into this prism of beauty, and it’s organic, and it’s magical. It really resonated for me, especially considering how desperate we are for space.”

More important to the artist than where she takes photos is who she inhabits those spaces with. Part historical documentation, part love letter to her community, Schindler sees photography as a means of paying tribute to loved ones. One shot shows longtime partner/frequent collaborator Lex Vaughn defiantly trading faces with a lenticular lion’s head. Another shows Danielle Norris (aka DJ Trust the Wizard) smoldering poolside. With several taken at the plethora of sapphic spaces organized by the artist, Schindler’s collection provides a brief, beautiful look into a tight-knit community.

“I think [my] friends are really stunning and deserve to be out there, big and blown up and preserved for prosperity forever,” says Schindler, who founded lesbian analog photography collective Homo Photo Club alongside Gretchen Phillips and Deb Norris. “I’m a huge archivist – it’s a big part of my process and how I stay connected to my community and to our stories.

“Creating stuff that ideally and hopefully will one day be in those archives and showcase what this scene is really important to me, and I feel like this is a part of that.”

Like Oil and Water, We Look Good Together in a Parking Lot: Opening reception: Sat., Feb. 3, 6-9pm. Prizer Arts and Letters, 2023 E. Cesar Chavez.

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