RVA photog Wes McQuillen opens first solo show depicting the jubilant queer experience at Gallery 5
Local photographer Wes McQuillen’s work might be familiar to some members of the community as they are often part of them, but the rest of the curious art world will get their chance to see the fruits of his labors this week when he opens his first solo show at Gallery 5′s Zine Gallery space.
McQuillen starting taking photos with his first camera, a Cannon AE 1, in 7th grade. The real-film camera was more often used as a hobby, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t ahead of the curve in some ways.
“Most of what I was shooting was my friends, but I’d also give the camera to my friends and have them take pictures of me,” he said. “I’d dress up – they’ed be like concept selfies. And this was when you had to develop film, so it wasn’t as common.”
The dress-up was what you’d imagine for a high school goth kid – brooding and scary, but he started to take himself more seriously when he was offered a gig with Americorp where he was tasked with documenting people struggling with publicly funded housing voucher programs. Those stories and videos would turn into pieces given to legislators to help sway their opinions and make laws at the General Assembly.
Whether or not the opinions were swayed, McQuillen kept shooting and directed his lens toward issues he and his friends were concerned with. He’d go to protests or rallies, or offer his services to nonprofits as a kind of photobooth. All the while he was going through his own female-to-male transition and fully embracing himself as a trans queer man.
“Most of my photo work before that was about abstraction and absurdity and weirdness,” he said. “I didn’t get political with it until then.”
McQuillen’s show, called Y‘ALL SO FAB, opens this Friday on the second floor of Gallery 5 along side a massive 20-artist print show called “Spring Cleaning“. He’s spent the last few weeks printing some of his favorite work in larger than life formats – party shots, pieces from a “queer pin up” collection he published in the 2015 GayRVAxVA Pride mag, and other shots that often highlight marginalized communities in the Richmond area in a healthy way.
“These folks are very big and influential in my own life and community, but I don’t know if its true outside of that circle,” he said about the subjects ranging from known local activists like Rebecca Keel to friends and LGBTQ fam. “Any little bit I can do to increase the power of the people that I portray will hopefully help with their visibility…. Printing them big literally makes them take up more space.”
Gallery 5′s Program Director, Claude Marin Dustin Fenton, had that thought process specifically in mind when they asked McQillen to get the show together.
“I thought it was really cool… his whole idea is these queer pin up photos ‘queer up’ the idea of a pin up,” said Fenton who was actually part of the pin up series when they were shot over a year ago. “They’re people not traditionally in a pin up style, and they show these people in what makes them feel sexy. There’s not a lot of nudity, or what you might see in a more traditional pin up-style…. the paramount thing is what makes the subject feel sexy”
Between that and generally elevating queer voices, the show was a slam dunk for Fenton and Gallery 5 in pursing their mission as a diverse gallery.
“We’re focusing on representing as much of the voice of the people as we can. In booking this show, its very important to me to show work from a people with a variety of view points… and a big part of his work is just showing queer people being happy, having fun, and I think that’s important for people to see,” said Fenton. “Representations of queer people that are less about their queerness and more about them being uplifted and experiencing life in a regular way.”
Expect to see some unique shots and unique messages when the show opens this Friday, 3/3, at Gallery 5 as part of their First Friday’s night of events. Stick around for music from DAZEASES and other members of POC-lead music collective Ice Cream Support Group.
Actor who plays DC movie’s Barry Allen/Flash is queer, has a band, and is playing Gallery 5 this weekend
Ezra Miller, star of movies like We Need to Talk About Kevin and DC’s new Justice League movies, has dipped his toes into musical waters and his band, Sons of Illustrious Father, is on your and stopping in RVA this weekend. If you’ve followed Mille, you know he’s managed to successfully pick weird (see We Need to Talk [...]March 3, 2017
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