The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve presents CONVERGE, a massive visual art exhibition held in partnership with the LGBTQ Center of Greater Cleveland, Lake Erie College, Judson Manor, and Cleveland MetroHealth. Shown across 5 venues, CONVERGE brings together the diverse stories of the LGBTQ community, including the historically underrepresented voices of women, transgender people, and people of color.
This exhibition is curated by Kelly Pontoni with help from co-curators Sam Butler, Tony Williams, and Mark Yasenchack with assistance from Mary Proctor. CONVERGE features 71 Ohio LGBTQ artists and over 140 works which explore themes of protest, pride, celebration and transformation.
In a sense, Chief Curator Kelly Pontoni’s whole life has informed the exhibition. Pontoni, a print maker and painter who identifies as lesbian, is a recent graduate from Cleveland Institute of Art. She explains, “As a non-traditional student in my late 40’s, I found myself surrounded by a new generation of LGBTQ+ students. I wondered where I as a lesbian fit into an increasingly non-binary world…but instead of holing up in my comfort zone I asked questions. I listened… and over many, MANY cups of coffee, I gained perspective.”
Inspired by these café conversations, CONVERGE was created “to open people’s minds, facilitate real dialog, and to honor the unique identities that come together to form our community.”
Art will be displayed at Lake Erie College's Royce Hall from now until the end of the exhibition on October 16th. Students, faculty, staff and the public are more than welcome to come look at the art as well as come to any of the below event dates.
Venues, Events and Receptions
Artists Archives of the Western Reserve | 1834 East 123rd Street, Cleveland, OH 44106
LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland | 6705 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102
Lake Erie College | Royce Hall | 391 W Washington St, Painesville, OH 44077
Cleveland MetroHealth | 2500 MetroHealth Drive, Cleveland, OH 44109
Judson Manor Retirement Community | S. Concourse Gallery | 1890 E 107th St. Clev., OH 44106
Artist Archives Opening Reception | Thursday, August 26 | 6:30 – 8:30pm
LGBT Center Reception | Friday, September 17 | 6:30 – 8:30pm
Cleveland MetroHealth Reception | Date TBA
Lake Erie College Closing Reception | Thursday, October 14 | 4:30 – 7:30pm
AAWR Virtual Programs:
Un(masc)ing Drag History with Dr. Lady J | Tuesday, September 14 | 7:00 – 8:00pm
Art and AIDS Panel Discussion | Date TBA
Exploring the Art
In the work of M. Carmen Lane, for example, the Cleveland region’s rich LGBTQ history is not only powerfully presented, but preserved. On view in CONVERGE is Lane’s poignant photographic triptych Children Wade In!, which documents the former Allen-Sullivan House on Euclid Avenue. Once known as The Colosseum, the site held “house balls,” and served as a Black gay afterhours space until the late 1990s. As Lane describes, “this work is a gesture to acknowledge and honor Cleveland’s underground Black ball culture and the Black queer histories that are hidden or erased by time and place.” Demolished in July of 2021 to make way for a housing complex, all that remains are Lane’s images and their frames, created from materials repurposed from the historic structure.
Trans and non-gender confirming identities are explored in Violet Maimbourg’s mixed media installation Wholeheartedness which features fleshy, silicon sculptures lounging about a suburban interior. At once alarming and endearing, the eerily organic figures reflect the artist’s own experience as a transgender woman. As Maimbourg explains, “Being in a body that is not congruent with your mind is a distressing, life altering experience…[These] creatures are more self-portraits than figments of my imagination… By removing body parts from the context of my own body, transforming them into art, they seem less intimidating.” CONVERGE is also honored to feature work from Cincinnati photographer Arykah Carter’s Black Trans Project. In a series of elegant portraits, Carter creates dignified and relatable representations of the “everyday existence of black trans bodies.” As she explains, “Trans people of color often navigate away from mainstream Cis-Society and Trans community organizations because of a lack of trust, lack of individuals that resemble them… The [project] started off as a tribute to Black Trans Women seeks to make Black Trans Women, Trans Men, and our Non-Binary siblings more visible, and the normality of our lives more relatable.”
As colorful as a rainbow flag and just as joyful, a spirit of pride and celebration courses through the exhibition. Nowhere is this better seen than in Susan Farone’s Efflorescene: A Lesbian Garden, lush abstract triptych which jubilantly celebrates her lesbian identity as well her relationship to self, nature, and the universe beyond.
“A garden is a wonderful metaphor for Lesbian lives - soil rich with great writers, change makers, artists, poets, singers, teachers, thinkers, and bad ass movers and shakers,” Farone shares. “I have been OUT since 1984 and have loved my LESBIAN Garden of DYKE-o-dils, LEZBO-gonias, AMAZinnias… and FEMINations. I thank God every day that I am a Lesbian... SHE just smiles.”
Other works of art explore the history of the AIDS Epidemic, including parts of the National AIDS Quilt that memorializes Midwestern lives lost to the disease. Akron artist Bret Hines created a series of sculptures to memorialize his brother Rodney Hines who died to the disease.
In addition to its support of local LGBTQ artists, CONVERGE also marks the first effort to extensively document their contributions to the important visual culture of Northeast Ohio. As AAWR Executive Director Mindy Tousley explains, “It is our hope that holding this exhibition, producing a catalog, recording the artists oral histories, and supporting their stories in a series of virtual programs, will begin the process of historical documentation, and add to valuable insight addressing the extent of their work.” To this end, the Artists Archives is raising funds to archive their first lesbian artist in honor of the tireless efforts of curator Kelly Pontoni and her wife, Martha. Donations can be made on artistsarchives.org or by calling the Archives directly, 216-721-9020.
Amie Albert, Denise Astorino, Mark Badzik, Tom Balbo, Karen D. Beckwith, Roy Bigler, Melissa Bloom, Kat Burdine, Sam Butler, Arykah Carter, Ray Caspio, Cathy Clerk Dully, Terry Durst, Andrew Emel, Paxton Enstad, Gene Epstein, Susan Farone, Chuck Fischer, Christa Freehands, Matthew Gallagher, Trey Gehring, Jim George, Nancy Halbrooks, Cassie Harner, Alex Heard, Michael W. High, Bret Hines, Rodney Hines, Mark Howard, William Martin Jean, Harper Jenkins, Robert Jergens, Jackson Kennedy, Drew King, Gil Kudrin, M. Carmen Lane, Rowan Leek, Tracey Lind, Meg Lubey, Violet Maimbourg, Max Markwald, Randy Maxin, Charles Mayer, Scott Miller, MANDEM (Moco/Maize/Kiki), Ben Oblivion, Wendy Partridge, Jessica Pinsky, Kelly Pontoni, Mary Proctor, Andrew Reach, Laurie Reydman, Christopher Richards, Thomas Roese, Rick Rollenhagen, Dan Rothenfeld, John Saile, Ron Shelton, Kevenn Smith, Lo Smith, Elle Strong, Aaron Swank, Dan Tranberg, Anthony Trausch, Arnold Tunstall, Shawny Walthaw, Daiv Whaley, Tony Williams, Charlie Wirfel, Mark Yasenchack, Jan Zorman.
About the Artists Archives:
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve (AAWR) is a unique archival facility and regional museum created to preserve representative bodies of work by Ohio visual artists. Through ongoing research, exhibition, and educational programs the AAWR actively documents and promotes this cultural heritage for the benefit of the public. The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve would also like to thank Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the people of Cuyahoga County, the George Gund Foundation, the Bernice & David E. Davis Foundation, the William Bingham Foundation and the Zufall Foundation for their continuing support.