Marc Braithwaite, director of the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design, stood before an audience at the opening of the George Fry Gallery’s latest exhibition and recalled how it used to be hard for Fredericton to organize Pride events. He remembered how, for decades, LGBTQ+ voices in the community were spoken over or silenced. Now, with the Queer Bodies, Queer Narratives exhibition, that silence is being broken.
The George Fry Gallery’s new exhibition features artists and creators from the LGBTQ+ community and aims to highlight the nuances of queer expression. Including pieces by Séamus Lee Hayes, Kyle Kirby, Chase Benjamin Plourde and Boy Venus, each part of the exhibit tells an important part of New Brunswick’s queer history. The exhibition incorporates many artistic mediums, from video and sculptures to painting and textiles.
At the opening of the exhibition, Lieutenant Governor Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau said that in Fredericton, “We celebrate one another.” The palpable celebration in the room felt long overdue.
The gallery features an audio-visual installation by Boy Venus called Your Silence Will Not Protect You, which uses cacophonous audio and video clips playing simultaneously on multiple screens to tell the story of the AIDS crisis. Listening to the Lieutenant Governor’s speech and then experiencing Venus’ installation underlined the necessity of queer narratives.
The gallery then shifts into textiles. Kyle Kirby’s Guillotine collection consists of several 18th century French-style dresses with a twist. Instead of using typical materials, Kirby employs spikes, fishnet and powerful, bold colours to convey the importance of moving away from the conventional.
“My main inspiration was being loud,” Kirby said. “I like being myself – to me, that’s being flashy and extravagant. I had drag queens modelling [the dresses].”
Kirby explained that he became involved in the Queer Bodies exhibit after one of the curators reached out to him. “She knows I stand out in the community, I’m recognizable.”
Featured artists will return to the gallery for a panel discussion on Jan. 9. The Queer Bodies, Queer Narratives exhibition remains on display at the George Fry Gallery until Jan. 10.