The sky is orange. The sun comes up behind the tall spires of a building covered in shadow, and a thick fog obscures almost everything in view.
No, these are not the first few lines of a dystopian novel. It’s the scene set in Anta Gueye ’23’s photograph, titled “S—! My Glasses.” Gueye took the photo through her dorm room window during the fall 2020 semester. She was inspired to get the shot after constantly being woken up by the sun filtering through her window early in the morning.
“I stood up on the little banister that’s by my window, took it through the glass, and I love how foggy and hazy it is,” Gueye said. “It looks like this would be in a fantasy look, and I’m just proud of that.”
“S—! My Glasses,” as well as more work by Gueye and various other artists and photographers, was featured in the Queer and POC Art Gallery held virtually Monday, Apr. 12 through Saturday, Apr. 17. The College of William and Mary’s Rainbow Coalition and Lambda Alliance put the gallery together as part of their 2021 Pride Week celebration.
In lieu of an in-person gallery due to COVID-19 restrictions, Rainbow Coalition and Lambda Alliance’s Pride Committee put together a virtual gallery that both in-person and remote students could view on the platform Gathertown. Gathertown mimics an in-person gallery by allowing visitors to “walk” through an interactive, animated gallery as an avatar, stop in front of different artwork, and press “X” on their keyboards to enlarge the image and see additional information about the artist and medium.
“In a way, it was easier to set up an art gallery virtually, especially with the pandemic, because if we had done it in person, I would have had to find time to meet with all the artists, and it would have been hard to feature alumni because I wouldn’t be able to get physical copies of their work,” Pride committee member Vincent Sheaberry ’22 said. “With the virtual adaptation, I was able to email the entire art department, students and alumni to see if they’d be able to virtually send me their art so I could format it to be posted onto the Gathertown.”
Submissions for the gallery were open to anyone who identified as LGBTQ+ or people of color, and were not limited by medium or theme. Sheaberry spoke to the variety of pieces featured in the gallery, including photographs of Glenn Close and Allan Ginsburg taken by John Gilbert Fox ’72 and photography pieces created by Liv McCarthy ’23 on a camera they built themselves.
“It doesn’t have to be this elaborate masterpiece that took you 43 days to complete,” Sheaberry said. “As long as you are doing something to express yourself in a creative outlet, I think that’s the most important. All of these artists did that, and it’s very beautiful to see.”
It doesn’t have to be this elaborate masterpiece that took you 43 days to complete.As long as you are doing something to express yourself in a creative outlet, I think that’s the most important. All of these artists did that, and it’s very beautiful to see.”
Rebecca Shkeyrov ’20, one of the alumni whose work is featured in the gallery, drew parallels between the experience of walking through a physical gallery and viewing the virtual gallery on Gathertown.
“It emulated the experience of walking around,” Shkeyrov said. “It was interesting that you walk up to a piece and it showed a little snippet of the work and you have to click ‘X’ to see the whole thing. That’s kind of like how, if you’re walking through a gallery, you would see something out of the corner of your eye, and then you’re like, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ You go look at it.”
Shkeyrov is often inspired by surprising colors and light patterns in their work. One of their pieces in the gallery, titled “Martha lounges,” features an older transgender woman relaxing in a room filled with vibrant colors, shapes and patterns. Shkeyrov created the work as a commission, and emphasized the importance of representing figures that often don’t find their way into so-called traditional art galleries.
“Most of the paintings of nude women you see in museums are, first of all, done by men,” Shkeyrov said. “I want to see, you know, a graceful older woman. A figure like this, I feel like, is so hard to come by in an institution.”
For Gueye, art is a way to capture visual stories that get people’s attention.
“America is not great at making the voices of minorities heard,” Gueye said. “I feel like art is a good way to express ourselves in a way that’s more likely to be heard, because a picture speaks a thousand words.”
“America is not great at making the voices of minorities heard. I feel like art is a good way to express ourselves in a way that’s more likely to be heard, because a picture speaks a thousand words.”
As a child of immigrants, Shkeyrov felt that becoming an artist was never an option growing up. They discussed the importance of pursuing their passions despite their upbringing, and hope that gallery visitors identify with their experience.
“It’s harder when you grow up hearing about your parents’ struggles, to choose a career path that is less lucrative and even seen as unimportant by many people,” Shkeyrov said. “Shows like this also validate art careers’ importance in society, especially when they are made so accessible.”
Sheaberry’s favorite part of the gallery is that there is no one message to take away. Rather, the showcase was about creating a space for queer and trans artists, artists of color and queer artists of color to express themselves however they saw fit.
“Showcasing the work of those that are not represented, like trans folk, queer folk and people of color is incredibly important,” Sheaberry said. “I wanted to make sure that I created a platform for them to be seen, specifically because their work is often very very cool and should be seen. It was a no-brainer to me.”