Over 50 visual artists and more than two dozen performers and performance artists converged on Mad Art Gallery for Transcending the Spectrum 6, an annual art exhibit, performance event, and fundraiser for the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG). The one night only event held on Saturday, April 13, gave visibility and voice of the St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community through visual art, drag performances, spoken word, and live music.
With ongoing debates over transgender rights – from the President’s demand for a ban on transgender service members in the military to continued consideration regarding access to public restrooms – St. Louis came together for the 6th year in a row to make it clear that it was time for hatred and bigotry to take a back seat. This is where community lives and live they did! Over 500 humans of all ages, races, and gender identities came together to share space and celebrate their trans, gender non-conforming, gay, lesbian, and queer family.
“We are humans, just the same as everyone else, and we just want acceptance and understanding. I want this show to be a place for the bears, queens, dykes, trans boys and girls, non-binary, asexuals, and pansexuals all in one place,” explains event curator and participating artist, Alex Johnmeyer. “I feel like this is one of the few events where everyone gets together. I would call it a celebration of trans and queer art!”
The gallery walls were hung with over 150 works in varied media, curated by local artists Alex Johnmeyer and Charlie Blake. Artists ranged from well-known St. Louis-based Jeff Kapfer, Karen Jones, and Amber Johnson to returning artists Bronn McMillin and Nic Echo, and new participants Larrissa Mooy and Sihn Starr Rossi. Through their works, the artists found visibility in their truths and created images that empowered their communities and normalized the complexities of their own experiences of trans erasure and embattled forms of agency.
Assistant curator, Charlie Blake reminds us, “Trans and queer voices have always been and will continue to be vital to art and cultural movements. The Transcending the Spectrum show is about recognizing and celebrating that fact with each other and with friends from the wider community.”
Partnering the visual imagery with performance, co-hosts Simon Saize and Tiki Vonte’ opened the stage to entertainment, enlightenment, and education. High-energy drag favorites Dickie Rebellion, Billy Midol, and Lug Nut; and original music from The Petting Zoo and Estradiol – among others – partnered well with the spoken word contributions of the evening. Moving words of life’s experiences transported us from where we are and what we know to places and faces and bodies and circumstances; leading us to understand that we are bigger on the inside than on the outside.
In the words from Jarek Steele, Dani Skye, and poet laureate Joss Barton we were called forth to witness beauty and pain and life. Their powerful messages were thoughtful and represented gender and race identity in all their humanity and courage.
Trans and gender non-conforming exhibitions of art – in all genres – have increased in numbers over recent years. Galleries are creating spaces to amplify and center often underrepresented trans and gender non-conforming artists, giving them a platform for expression. A testament to this commitment in the arts community is MOTHA, Museum of Trans Hirstory and Art. Dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life, MOTHA, the preeminent institution of its kind, is committed to enriching the transgender mythos both by exhibiting works by living artists and by honoring the hiroes and transistors who have come before throughout North America and the world.
Transcending the Spectrum 6, brought a new level of visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community to the St. Louis region and reminded us that there is much work yet we can do as a society at the local level, compelling us to work beyond binaries and convention and demand our legacy.
Metro Trans Umbrella Group is a non-profit organization that delivers advocacy, educational resources, and support to transgender community and its allies in the St. Louis metro area.
Mad Art Gallery’s mission is to cultivate and inspire art audiences in St. Louis by exhibiting emerging and established artists.