We all want to be remembered –to reach across time and the generations with the simple want of leaving behind a record of a life lived. And the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) or queer community is certainly no different.
“There’s something very much legitimizing about having LGBT people and events placed in granite or cast in bronze,” says poet, educator, and LGBT activist Steven Reigns, who brings The Gay Rub to The Cecille R. Hunt Gallery at Webster University Aug. 28-Sept. 18, 2015.
The Gay Rub is a collaborative project created and organized by the Los Angeleno who grew up in St. Louis and showcases a collection of over 100 rubbings from important markers of LGBT history.
“What sparked the idea is I discovered that a few blocks from my home is the first plaque for transgender victims of hate crimes,” explains Reigns. “I was really impressed that it was the first-ever in the world, and I started to wonder what other markers are out there kind of educating and validating the LGBT experience.”
A team of volunteers from across the globe have put black crayon to paper to record signs, tombstones, cenotaphs, plaques and monuments to draw attention to the LGBT events and individuals under-represented or under-appreciated within history.
According to Reigns, the rubbings themselves act as an archive of historic markers, calling attention to what LGBT events and individuals get recolonized or legitimized through public commemoration.
“I wondered, ‘What if all these markers were displayed at once and what would that look like?” Reigns recalls. “Immediately I knew I wanted rubbings as opposed to photographs — I think that photographs rob the kind of tactile nature of a rubbing. I like the idea of people interacting with the marker itself.”
The St. Louis exhibit includes some Gateway City stories, including openly gay playwright Tennessee Williams and out author William S. Burroughs, interred at Calvary and Bellefontaine Cemeteries, repectively. A special booklet accompanies the exhibition with information on each rubbing displayed.
“I’m thrilled about the St. Louis exhibit, especially to be at this gallery that’s on the campus of Webster,” says Reigns.” I’m excited that Webster University understands the artistic merit of the project, as well as they understand the dialogue and educational component that comes [with it]. I think it’s a great fit for this exhibition to be at an educational institution like Webster.”
“I think this exhibition links to the mission of the gallery and the broader educational mission of the university”, adds Jeff Hughes, Cecille R. Hunt Gallery Director. “Personally, I’m very attracted to relational art, and the fact that this work is participatory, but it also speaks to a broader way of understanding relationships. I think any time that we can sort of find a history that has been lost is one of the ways of making up for the ills of the past, but also making us aware of the contemporariness of it as well. It’s a very timely, timely mission.”