DEERING SPRING CONTEMPORARY 2023: Closer to Nature
The Deering Estate’s Spring Contemporary exhibition Closer to Nature explores concepts of queer ecofeminism: intersections of queer theory, feminism, race, science, and nature. The exhibition shares works that deal with experiences of looking for/finding oneself in nature and expanding the environments for queer existence to thrive. The exhibition is curated by guest curator Summer Jade Leavitt.
The works in the exhibition range from sculpture, installation, poetry, performance, artifact, and video will sprawl across the Estate’s grounds and in the Great Hall of the Stone House. The media and materials the artists use here, including somatic poetry rituals, spell work, living sculpture, drag, performance art, and ephemeral artifacts challenge tradition, using experimental methods for creating, writing, thinking, and performing. These works observe oppressive structures, embody defiance, and provide the antidote to their restraints. Looking into the hidden, unseen, impossible, extinct, and unknown, the artists here exemplify what it means to be queer: to give language to a world larger than the one we find ourselves in.
In Greta Gaard’s essay Toward a Queer Ecofeminism, Gaard dissects the contradictions in culturally constructed binaries that were used to justify colonialism and enforce hierarchy; in dualisms, human/nature, reason/emotion, mind/spirit, the oppressed groups are seen in Western culture as “closer to nature”, yet queerness is frequently devalued for being “against nature”. While this implies that nature is valued and protected, recent environmental disasters and climate crisis demonstrates otherwise.
In these colonial structures, that which wanders outside of reason, order, rationality, and production is punished and subordinated. To reject that colonization requires embracing the natural in all its diversity and collaborating to create shared liberation.
Exhibiting artists include Tsohil Bhatia, CA Conrad, Christy Gast, GeoVanna Gonzalez, Kasem Kydd, Kunst, Lee Pivnik, Dani Janae and The Queer Theory Library, and X Medianoche.
The Deering Estate maintains the legacy of Charles Deering of supporting artists and creative innovation through its vigorous residency and exhibition program. The Deering Spring Contemporary has always been a platform for artists to explore the site and illustrate different facets of the history of the site and its surroundings.
About Summer Jade Leavitt
Summer Jade Leavitt is an artist and writer thinking about queer histories, lineages, and futures. Seeking to locate origins of trauma and excavate them from the body, they are creating space for all that has been lost, all that is yet to come. They are the recipient of an Oolite Ellie’s Creator award, two WaveMaker grants, a Red Bull Arts Prize, and a residency with the City of Miami Beach. Their work has been exhibited at the Miller Institute of Contemporary Art, Locust Projects, Bas Fisher Invitational, the Pittsburgh Performance Art Festival, and more. Selected Solo exhibitions include Language is Leaving Me, Possible Bodies, and We Have a Future, Perhaps. They have received a 2019 Pushcart Prize Nomination, the 2018 Academy of American Poets Prize from Carnegie Mellon, 2018 and 2017 Samuel Rosenberg Art Awards, and was a finalist for the 2018 Charlotte Mew Prize with Headmistress Press, with whom they published their first chapbook mad girl’s crush tweet. They are currently the Director of a nomadic gallery they’ve founded called The Queer Theory Library.
About the exhibiting artists:
Tsohil Bhatia (b.1992 New Delhi) is an artist and homemaker currently based in Lenapehoking now known as New York City. They received their MFA at the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University (2020). Tsohil’s practice emerges from contemplations about the latencies of mundane objects, rituals, and images – bringing together the complexities of human existence and the body’s relationship with time and the space it inhabits. Through their performance practice, Tsohil explores and addresses paradoxes as well as represents unresolvable concepts and emotions. They utilize books as containers for preserving ephemera. Their work has been shown at the University of British Columbia, Orecomm Festival, Queer Arts Festival, Franconia Sculpture Park, Hair+Nails, Fowler Kellogg Art Center and the Warhol. They’re represented by Blueprint12 Gallery (India).
CAConrad has worked with the ancient technologies of poetry and ritual since 1975. As a young poet, they lived in Philadelphia, where they lost many loved ones during the early years of the AIDS crisis, as documented in the essay “SIN BUG: AIDS, Poetry, and Queer Resilience in Philadelphia.”
In 2005, Conrad began working with (Soma)tic Poetry Rituals. The poems in their latest book, AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration (Wave Books, 2021), reach out from a (Soma)tic poetry ritual in which Conrad flooded their body with the field recordings of recently extinct animals. This book won the 2022 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. Foundational here are the memories of loved ones who died of AIDS, the daily struggle of existing through the coronavirus pandemic, and the effort to arrive at a new way of falling in love with the world as it is, not as it was.
Conrad exhibits their poems as art objects in places such as Futura Gallery in Prague, the Robert Grunenberg Gallery in Berlin, the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York City, Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong, and as part of the 2021 Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. In 2022, Alex Alonso curated a solo exhibition of Conrad’s poems in fluent Gallery in Santander, Spain, titled “13 Moons: Listen to the Golden Boomerang’s Return.” In Brighton, England, their poem “Glitter in My Wounds” is the title of a new exhibition of emerging artists.
Conrad’s The Book of Frank (Wave Books, 2010) is now available in nine different languages. Penguin UK will soon release a new edition of The Book of Frank and a selection of (Soma)tic poetry rituals and their resulting poems. Conrad is the author of many other books of poetry, which include While Standing in Line for Death (Wave Books, 2017), ECODEVIANCE: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness (Wave Books, 2014), and A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books, 2012). They received the 2022 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Creative Capital grant, a Pew Fellowship, a Lambda Literary Award, and a Believer Book Award. Their play The Obituary Show was made into a film in 2022 by Augusto Cascales. They currently live in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and will teach at UMass, Amherst, in the MFA creative writing program from fall 2022 to spring 2023. They teach at Columbia University in New York City and the Sandberg Art Institute in Amsterdam.
Christy Gast is an artist whose work across media stems from extensive research and site visits to places she thinks of as “contested landscapes.” She is interested in places where there is evidence of conflict in human desires, which she traces, translates or mirrors through her art practice. Since 2010 she has worked with Ensayos, a collective research practice working on issues of political ecology in Tierra del Fuego and other archipelagos.
Her work has been exhibited at MoMA/P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Performa, Artist’s Space, Harris Lieberman Gallery and Regina Rex in New York; the Pérez Art Museum of Miami, Bass Museum of Art, de la Cruz Collection, Locust Projects, and Nina Johnson in Miami; as well as Mass MoCA, the American University Museum, L.A.C.E., High Desert Test Sites, Centro Cultural Matucana 100 (Chile), the Kadist Foundation (Paris) and Milani Gallery (Brisbane). She has received grants and awards from the Art Matters Foundation, Funding Arts Network, South Florida Cultural Consortium, Tigertail, the American Austrian Foundation Hayward Prize, and the Joan Sovern Sculpture Award from Columbia University.
GeoVanna Gonzalez is a Miami/Berlin-based artist. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California where she received her BFA at Otis College of Art and Design. Her work desires to connect private and public space through interventionist, participatory art with an emphasis on collaboration and collectivity. She builds installations that are designed for non-directive play in order to express the potential of our embodied cognition. She references architecture and design by reflecting on how the voids in the spaces we inhabit affect our everyday. Through her work she addresses the shifting notions of gender and identity, intimacy and proximity, and forms of communication and miscommunication in today’s technological and consumer culture. Her most recent work performs these possibilities by collaborating with movement and sound based artists. These improvisations are political acts, analyzing and critiquing what it means to share public space as womxn, queer folks and people of color.
Selected solo exhibitions include: “HOW TO: Oh, look at me” (2021), Locust Projects, Miami, Florida; “Where we open every window” (2019), Gr_und, Berlin, Germany; “PLAY, LAY, AYE: ACT I” (2019), Bass Museum, Miami, Florida. Selected group exhibitions include: “Common Space” 2021, Oolite Arts, Miami, Florida; “without architecture, there would be no stonewall; without architecture, there would be no brick” (2021), Station Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas; “2020 South Florida Cultural Consortium”(2020), NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Gonzalez received awards and residencies from: A WaveMaker grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation and Locust Projects (2020); The Ellies Visual Arts award from Oolite Arts (2020); The South Florida Cultural Consortium from Miami Dade County (2020). Artist residencies included: Franconia Sculpture Park (2022), Shafer, Minnesota; Santa Fe Art Institute Residency (2022), Santa Fe, New Mexico and Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (2022), Omaha, Nebraska and work is in collections at Miami-Dade County Art in Public Place (2021), Miami, Florida; and University of Maryland Art Gallery (2019), Museum in College Park, Maryland.
KUNST is a trans disciplinary artist based in Miami, Florida that is working to contextualize and visualize the stratum of queerness that is tied to the body, experience, and fantasy. My artwork takes a critical view of social, political and cultural issues filtered through an autobiographical approach. Pulling from esoteric pop culture to inform my aesthetics, my artistic practice is a trans disciplinary one that evades the rigid forms of genre and style to create photographs, drawings, sculptures, paintings, video work, and live performance that are overtly queer. My art practice creates extra dimensional spaces outside the normative world where my various characters, from Coneheads to Clowns, become inhabitants. In doing so I render impossible situations where fractures in meaning-making opens up and intelligibility becomes improbable. In construing queer affects like terror, horror, melancholy, the uncanny and Negation along those spaces I bring the audience into a ‘strange place’ of experience.
Lee Pivnik (b. 1995) is a Miami-based artist, working predominantly in sculpture, video and social practice. In 2018 he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in Sculpture and a concentration in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies, and in 2022 he attended the Immersion Program at The School of Architecture (TSOA) at Arcosanti. His work takes inspiration from living systems and other species to imagine a future that is based on mutualistic relationships instead of extractive economies. In 2017, Artspace named Pivnik one of “9 Artists Changing the Way We Think About the Environment”. He has been awarded Knight Arts Challenge Awards in 2019 and 2021, and an Ellie from Oolite Arts (2020). Pivnik has been an artist in residence at Biosphere 2 (2017), Mana Contemporary Miami (2018), Atlantic Center for the Arts (2021), and Deering Estate (2022). In his artwork and curatorial projects, he attempts to help produce a more regenerative, ecozoic world. Well aware of the scale of such an endeavor, Pivnik considers his practice as an opportunity for collaboration. In 2017 Pivnik started the Institute of Queer Ecology, a collaborative organism that works to imagine and realize an equitable multispecies future. He has continued to run the project alongside artist and evolutionary biologist Nicolas Baird. IQECO builds on the theoretical framework of Queer Ecology, an adaptive practice concerned with interconnectivity, intimacy, and multispecies relationality. Guided by queer and feminist theory and decolonial thinking, we work to undo dangerously destructive human-centric hierarchies—or even flip them—to look at the critical importance of things happening invisibly; underground and out of sight. To date, the Institute of Queer Ecology has worked with over 120 different artists to present interdisciplinary programming that oscillates between curating exhibitions and directly producing artworks/projects. IQECO has presented projects with the Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY), the Institute of Contemporary Art (Miami, Florida), the Julia Stoschek Collection (Düsseldorf, Germany), the Medellín Museum of Modern Art (Medellín, Colombia), the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade (Serbia), ASAKUSA (Tokyo, Japan), the Biennale of Sydney (Australia), Prairie (Chicago, IL), Bas Fisher Invitational (Miami, FL) Gas Gallery (Los Angeles, CA), and Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA), among others.
Dani Janae is a poet and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned her BA in Creative Writing from Allegheny College. Her work has been published by Argot Magazine, Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Palette Poetry, Wax Nine Journal, Levee Magazine, and Slush Pile Magazine. Her manuscript, Motherless Fruit, was a finalist for the 2021 CAAPP Book Prize. She is a contributing writer at Autostraddle.
When she is not writing she enjoys having intimate conversations with the things that puzzle and delight her, admiring spiders, watching horror movies, and hunting for figs.
The Queer Theory Library is a library focused on creating a collective space for discussion, experimentation, and knowledge. Providing access to academic texts and activating them with curated cultural programming, the Library invites an engaged, imaginative experience and greater community dialogue. The Queer Theory Library also functions as an growing archive for local artists, writers, and residents to submit their work, writings, and ephemera. With a mission to radically shift and explore possibilities for queer thought, culture, and liberation, the Library is focused on abolition and futurism. How we frame our past and present influences the future we build; how we perceive and write our realities creates new worlds. Through education, collaboration, and creation, the QTL aims to enable, empower, and inspire our queer communities.
X Medianoche (b. 1993 in South Florida; California-based and currently working on a Studio Art MFA at the University of Wisconsin–Madison) is an interdisciplinary artist characterized by their unapologetic spirituality, attention to detail, and utilization of their artwork as prayers and spells. Their work functions as a meditation space on interconnectedness as well as an instructional guide to consciously embodying it. X’s work operates as a vehicle that exits the 3D to source infinite possibility and re-enters it with gifts of union and integration. Their pieces exist in a wide range of media; the only limits being that they are offerings of psychic wholeness bridging ideation and actualization for multidimensional healing.
Cultural Arts Programming at the Deering Estate is made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners, and The Deering Estate Foundation, Inc.