Bar art

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U of R students display their work in the GLCR

Can't Think Straight
Jonathan Petrychyn
A&C Editor

When Lisa Smith told me she was spearheading an initiative to hang art in the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Regina (GLCR), I was skeptical.

If you’ve ever been into the GLCR, you’d understand why I was concerned about putting art – actual art, not mass-produced Walmart bullshit – there. It’s not only a community centre, but a bar and nightclub – the only gay-friendly bar and nightclub in Regina.

Smith assured me that art is hung on the walls in bars all the time. And to be sure, she’s right: the Freehouse makes a point of hanging local art on its walls. It gives the place a homey, local flavour that separates it from the other bars and restaurants in Cathedral and Downtown.

And Smith knows that hanging art in the dancefloor section of the GLCR would be Bad News Bears, so she hung the art in the lounge area.

I still wasn’t convinced, however, and remained skeptical of its place in the GLCR. I mean, it’s the GLCR, not an art gallery.

However, I went into the bar on Saturday and was actually pleasantly surprised.

Prior to the installation of art on the walls, the lounge walls were somewhat bare, or at the very least didn’t have anything exciting hanging from the walls. But with art by U of R students Joel Kovach and Leah Keiser gracing the walls, the lounge is given a light facelift.

Keiser has a series of three photos of her partner exploring the field around an abandoned house.

“The work I hung was just a series of photographs that I took while roadtripping with my partner,” Keiser said. “Nothing planned. It was a beautiful day out and we were in no rush, so we played around in some abandoned houses an hour or so west of Regina.”

Looking at the photos, however, you’ll notice that though they’re hanging in Regina’s only gay bar, they aren’t necessarily photos with queer themes.

“The work is less about a queer identity – other than the fact that my partner is in the shots – and more about a flat-land identity,” Keiser said. “Open space, abandoned buildings, and playfulness are pretty central to prairie life.”

That’s what is so refreshing about Keiser’s work in the GLCR. It’s queer, but not explicitly. The photos aren’t obtrusive; they’re just nice pieces of art. The prairie landscapes contextualize the bar, which, frankly, sometimes feels like it’s in an entirely different city. The photos remind us that we are in Saskatchewan, and we are queer in Saskatchewan, which in itself is an idea often forgotten by the community and those around us. It reminds us of our context, where we’re living, and where we’ve come from.

Yet Keiser is wary of reading too deeply into her photos.

“This was just being in love and having fun on a roadtrip,” Keiser said. “It’s silly to attach any more meaning to that.”

Joel Kovach’s work is a less optimistic take prairie life. Kovach doesn’t work in drawing any more, and has since moved to new media and performance, but his dark and sometimes violen, drawings provide an interesting counterpoint to Keiser’s lighter photos.

“It deals with issues of self-harm vs. self-healing and the notion of the queer identity as a sort of monster, but perhaps not a sinister one, [but] something more benign,” Kovach said. “Or maybe a more empowered kind of monster.”

But just like Keiser’s photos, Kovach’s drawings come from a deeply personal place.

“The two figure drawings that are in the show are actually three years old, but are still kind of important to me because they are kind of the beginning, I think,” Kovach said. “They are actually from the year I came out.”

Together, the two artists’ works provide an interesting dialogue on what it means to be queer in Saskatchewan.

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