When I first saw the exhibit, I was very confused about what the message was about, and the interpretation I had was very different from the interpretation the artist promotes. I hadn’t read the artist’s statement until after I viewed the exhibit, so initially I thought that surviving the panhandle was a commentary on how the panhandle area faces dangerous natural disasters like hurricanes. I thought that the figures in the ground were supposed to represent stormwater pumps that are used in times of extreme flooding. After reading the artist’s statement after my initial viewing, my perspective changed drastically. I had no idea that the exhibit was a commentary on the queer experience in Florida, and how fighting heteronormativity and homophobia feels to someone on the queer spectrum.
I love that the exhibit pulled from the camp aesthetic, which is something that is either very misunderstood or incorrectly interpreted in popular culture. The camp aesthetic is a huge part of queer culture, and it’s something that stands out in the eyes of the public. When I looked at those chrome statues in the wild, they were the first thing that caught my eye. I agree with the artist in that it’s impossible for these figures to hide or blend in, which can make survival different. This also applies to the queer experience, where hiding sometimes isn’t an option and your survival can depend on how accommodating your surroundings can be. It’s a sad commentary, but it was impactful when I finally understood the message behind the exhibit.
When I first entered the exhibit I was confused. I did not understand why the room was so empty, why there was sand in the corner, or why the entire room was covered in foil. The entire room felt intimidating, and I struggled to understand the meaning behind everything inside of it. In particular, I wondered what the small, silver cylinders were meant to represent. They did not look like anything that I was familiar with, and it was impossible for me to even give them a name. I felt that the context was necessary to understand the exhibit, so I decided to read the essay.
The essay gave me a much deeper understanding of the exhibit. Now, instead of seeing small, silver cylinders that had no meaning, I witnessed a band of atypical standing proud against their environment. They understood that they did not fit in with their surrounding area, and they did not let that change them. Instead of hiding away and trying to fit in, they took pride in everything that made them unique. Reading the essay transformed the pieces from intimate objects to people with feelings. I could imagine them alone and confused in the wilderness, not knowing whether to conform or hide. They would look around and finally find one other person that is like them. Suddenly, they did not feel out of place. They now felt confident that it was okay to be themselves. After viewing this exhibit and understanding the meaning behind it, I realized the importance of community. A community understands your struggles and supports you while you navigate the world. Now more than ever, it is essential that we embrace what makes us unique and use it to push ourselves forward. Justin Quaid Grubb’s exhibit confused me at first, but now that I understand the meaning behind it, I can safely say that it has permanently altered the way I view myself and the people around me.