Gravity is a force that affects all bodies — tethering and tying us to this mortal plane of existence. In Galileo’s law of falling bodies, all objects fall at exactly the same rate with variances arising only from air resistance. Melding scientific conceptions with their artistic practice, curators and artists Shawn Bitters and Matthew Willie Garcia explore this idea through the lens of queerness and the medium of printmaking in their exhibit, “The Law for Falling Bodies: A Queer Print Media Exhibit.” This collection of work on display at Charlotte Street Gallery investigates queer realities through the varying perspectives of Bitters and Garcia as well as the other featured artists: Ash Armenta, Ruben Bryan Castillo, Kat Richards and Erin Zona. The title, pulled from Galileo’s theory, examines a different kind of gravitational pull in terms of queerness, one that opens people to their true selves aside from mainstream society’s expectations.
Installed on the floor, Richard’s metallic, shimmering rug of countless silver buttons is the welcome mat to the exhibit. The elaborate piece is a mix between armor and a disco ball, of protection and joy. Looking around, the works on the walls are striking, bright and in some instances, informative. Castillo’s pieces feature artifacts from the Gay and Lesbian Archives of Mid America (GLAMA), giving glimpses into the past with handwritten notes from Phyllis Shafer (activist and mother of Kansas City gay rights activist, Drew Shafer). There is a sense of tenderness in Castillo’s work, merging public and private spheres as wallpaper scraps are printed alongside historical queer articles.
Armenta and Zona’s pieces fill in the middle of the gallery. In their three-dimensional prints, Armenta invites viewers into intimate moments as bodies twist and curl against the walls, the lines of flesh visible on their midsections. Zona’s monochromatic geometric drawings form a dizzying pattern indicative of the limitless bounds of queerness.
Hulking in the back of the gallery is a collaborative piece by Bitters and Garcia. Bitters constructed a fiery volcano, with paper tufts of earth and fire spitting out into the gallery space. The three-dimensionality of the piece is intentionally broken when one walks behind it to encounter mere paper backing. Once there, viewers get sucked into Garcia’s cosmic projections. These works are visually stunning beyond their meaning. Bitters carries viewers up a mountain on a dangerous hike, while Garcia launches them into space.
What is queer when it is separate from bodily form? Queer experiences are as vast as the individuals who compose the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, “The Law for Falling Bodies,” is a peek behind the curtain of each artist and how their queerness factors into their printmaking practice. The connections to queer archives also add rich historical elements. Gravitationally, the exhibit pulls in queer histories and also presents narratives, examples from earth as well as those from outer space. Some works are rooted in the mundane and the ordinary — reminders scribbled onto loose scraps of wallpaper samples, or a human form curled into the fetal position. Others are shrouded in abstraction, thick with symbolism and meanings that must be gleaned from beneath the surface. The overall result is something that can be consumed in layers — the visuals, the context and the notion that queerness exists beyond our bodies.
“The Law for Falling Bodies: A Queer Print Media Exhibit” continues through Jan. 7 at the Charlotte Street Gallery, 3333 Wyoming St. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The gallery will hold a closing reception from 4 to 5 p.m. Jan. 7. For more information 816.221.5115 or www.charlottestreet.org.