‘Coming out for art’
Every year, in honor of National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), Chico’s Stonewall Alliance hosts its Coming Out for Art group show. One of this year’s participants is Dawn Davis, a 42-year-old sixth-grade English teacher who lives in Chico with her partner, Ange Bledsoe. Davis plans on submitting three pieces for this year’s exhibit (Friday, Oct. 11, 6:30-11 p.m., at 100th Monkey Café & Books), including a large assemblage piece called “Love Letter.”
What’s your “Love Letter” piece about?
Ange and I have been dating for 10 months now, and these are all of the notes that we’ve left for one another. They’d be on the counter when I got home, or in my lunchbox, or after a weekend together. I didn’t have any intention of putting them into a piece of art, but they’re so sweet; I decided to include them in [an] artwork so that I could always have them.
What kind of impact does Coming Out for Art have?
I volunteered at the door last year, so I got see everyone as they came in, and it was packed, and there were people from all over the community who came in. There were some really beautiful pieces of art, really moving. There were also some really provocative pieces that might shock people, but I think that’s kind of healthy, too. That’s what art does. It makes people open their eyes and talk.
What’s your coming-out story?
There were a series of revealing experiences that I had. I definitely had a crush on a girl when I was 12 or 13, and while she wanted to explore that with me, she was also afraid of it, and so she instantly had a boyfriend and [it] crushed me. But I fell in love with a woman when I was about 22 years old, and it was so frightening for me to come out to my parents. But both of them said, ‘I love whoever you love,’ so I had a very easy experience compared to a lot of other people. Coming out happens for me all the time. Especially because I present as a feminine woman, so people assume that I’m straight. So, I’m constantly making the decision: ‘Is this a safe situation? Can I come out here?’
Is Chico a safe place to come out?
Yeah, I feel safe coming out in Chico. All of my co-workers know, [and] all of my neighbors know my girlfriend, and my daughter’s friends know she has two moms—well, myself and my ex are her two moms, and Ange is new to the picture, a stepmom if you will. But in my youth, I’ve been assaulted twice for being a lesbian—and in San Francisco no less. I’ve been punched in the face, and somebody tried to light me on fire. I have to think about that when I come out. There’s always a threat [from] the noisy minority who are afraid of the gay community.