Sometimes, in the course of our hectic lives, it’s easy to forget — or not even notice — the little things that make living in Frederick County great. In that spirit, I launched, “What I Love in Frederick this Week”: the best food, drink, shows, shopping, and events coming to the city. If you love something in Frederick, let me know. Submissions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeted to @kamamasters.
This week: “Love, or Something Better” — an art show featuring queer Frederick artists
Okay, fine. The “Love, or Something Better” show is technically in Hagerstown, at the Engine Room Art Space on North Potomac Street. But the exhibition, which runs through Sunday, features artwork by Ash Cheshire and Jillian MacMaster — two Frederick-based artists who centered their work on queer identity and love.
“For me, it was really the first time I’ve worked on gay art just for myself,” said MacMaster, a photographic artist who distorts still images with a document scanner to create a greater range of fluidity and motion. For this particular exhibit, she mined photographs from vintage women’s health magazines, especially titles focused on sculpting and bodybuilding.
“When I was looking through the pages, it was just very interesting to see these thin, beautiful women — very clearly models — in magazines devoted to something like bodybuilding,” MacMaster said. “But it also seemed so predictable, that these very feminized women would be held up as the standards of beauty. So, I wanted to use them to depict queer love, or sexuality, or even subvert them into a symbol of femme-femme relationships.”
The show was a way to mark Pride month in Hagerstown, but it’s also a very personal glimpse into the way both artists interpret their own lives and community. Cheshire, also working in the contemporary sphere, used found art and antique still life pieces painted with bright acrylics for an unapologetic depiction of queer identity. In some cases, the art is almost literal: an old-fashioned painting graffitied with “QUEER” in big capital letters, for example. In other cases, the works highlight original poetry or surreally reimagined found objects (take the antique scale covered in globs of pink paint).
“As a queer person creating, everything that I create innately becomes queer,” Cheshire said. “And there’s a power and beauty in that for me.”
MacMaster found the exhibition equally freeing, jokingly referring to the works as her “Sapphic series.” Both artists hope it’s also a way to encourage younger artists to find their own space.
“I’m just thankful that in this age, being queer is accepted in more and more places everyday,” MacMaster said. “And I hope that our art might inspire other queer artists who maybe aren’t accepted at home but need to know there’s a place for them.”
Follow Kate Masters on Twitter @kamamasters.