Coming out this weekend

Annual Stonewall art party celebrates courage and community

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Coming Out for Art 2015, Saturday, Oct. 10, 6 p.m., at Habitat Lab.

Habitat Lab
199 E. 13th St.

With an eclectic mix of visual and live artists exhibiting/performing their work, and musicians Max Minardi, Ryan Mattel and more supplying tunes, the annual Coming Out for Art exhibition, party and benefit promises to be one of the more lively and diverse events of the fall.

The free event (with no-host bar and appetizers) is the Stonewall Alliance’s annual celebration of National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11), which “brings attention to and honors the courageous people who come forth and say the words, ‘I’m gay,’” said Nicholle Lewis, local activist and organizer of this year’s event.

Lewis has been working with San Francisco photographer Rob Lebow, who said, “My hope is that people will get to take away what a true sense of community feels like.” Lebow is the co-curator of Gorgeous (2014), a book featuring iconic images and personal stories from some of the world’s most visible LGBT advocates. “Coming Out for Art is a celebration of community,” he added. “LGBTs continue to face discrimination and injustice today based on gender and sexuality, so art advocacy is a cool way to empower, educate and, most importantly, have some fun supporting artists.”

Photographer Alicia L. Parsons, one of the participating artists, said she came out to her family and friends eight years ago, when “we didn’t even have a local Gay Pride day. This event is about everyone coming together … to celebrate all types of art.”

Parsons will be displaying nearly life-size, tiled, photo-negative prints of organizer Lewis. “She has a beautiful back tattoo that is nearly a full-body tattoo. I was very interested to see how the film negative of the photographs turned out.”

A bit more overt in its sexual content are the self-styled “smut” photos of Isabel Dresler. “My own local community is always the most important place for me,” she said when talking about the nature of the COFA exhibit. “It’s exciting to celebrate not just my own creative labors, but the labors of newer artists who are trying to find their place in the local art community, which isn’t always a very welcoming or friendly place if you’re—you know—‘different.’”

For this show, Dresler will be showing works from a new series in which she pairs her “sexy Polaroids” with text cut out from vintage erotica books.

“I hope that my work will inspire people to feel more comfortable with who they are and what they like, and stop falling prey to the shame and sexual stigma that smaller towns like ours tend to be notorious for.”

Sharon Nilsson, proprietor of Pepper Grand Coulee’s Funky Trunk, has created outfits that will be shown on live models. “‘Space Cowboys’ will have two male models wearing cut-off coveralls covered in glitter paint,” she said. “They will have clear tubing filled with green fluid surrounding their heads and neck, with an aluminum dryer hose connecting the two models.

“Another exhibit will consist of two models—one steampunk, and the other more saloon girl—wearing bustiers and custom bustles. They will have several wires and cords coming out of their hair and attaching to a TNT box between them. I call that one ‘Va-Voom Ba-Boom.’”

Portrait painter Heather Bennett, whose multimedia pieces include such materials as wine, coffee, hair dye, stage blood, tea, grape juice and “always” eye shadow, she said, will be showing a couple of mixed-media portraits she made of attendees at this year’s Chico Pride festivities.

“I met them and took their pictures, then worked from my photos to create the actual paintings,” Bennett said. “As a bisexual and gender-fluid person myself, I adore all that Stonewall provides for the LGBT community. They are an amazing group of individuals and I’m proud to represent for them whenever I can”