Arts & Entertainment

Ralph Arnold’s ‘Transistors’ is a Queer Celebration of Sexuality

Loyola’s Ralph Arnold Fine Arts Annex (1131 W. Sheridan Road) routinely showcases artistic exhibits behind its broad front window — some of which are more soft and mild-mannered, others punchy, vibrant and thought-provoking. “Transistors” is the latter.

“Transistors,” named for the devices that enable people to listen and communicate, highlights work that diverts from conventional understandings of craftsmanship and embraces the artistic experiences of non-straight sexualities as something to be celebrated.

The exhibit, which features work from 10 different queer artists, opened to the public Feb. 21, and the abundance of work is just as diverse as the people who created it. The exhibit contains paintings, sketches, photography, patchwork, writing, sculptures, a bedazzled sports bra on the floor and more.

One piece appears to be a giant, stuffed orange glove with a Jheri curl wig and rhinestones that spell out “is this look On Brand?”

Hanging on the walls are Madonna-esque photographic tapestries of black men in flower crowns gazing off into the distance, in a perpetual state of what could be either pride, prayer or yearning.

The most provocative piece in the room has to be the leash and collar hooked into plastic testicles, proudly displayed on an elevated base.

Ariel Gentalen, a 28-year-old art curator, was asked to organize the exhibit by artist Betsy Johnson, to which Gentalen happily obliged.

“I was thinking of doing — as a trans curator — a trans-forward show,” Gentalen said. “But I was really lost in the idea of what trans visibility is and how that can serve anyone. And so I decided to make this an incubator for as many artists as possible, to have a moment to shine, to be valid and to work together.”

Gentalen, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, said they wanted to make “Transistors”  a show and a series of programs, as to encompass as many opinions and artists as possible.

“I was working in museums but I just keep getting drawn back to curating,” they said. “As an art historian who wants to diversify the narratives for minority voices that have been excluded in the art history canon.”

The gallery will host programs including a comedy night, a round table on masculinity and a writing and research residency every Friday throughout the project. The residency will be hosted by Gentalen.

“Transistors” will be at the Ralph Arnold Fine Arts Annex through March 22, and admission is free.

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