Bedrooms can be private spaces, but “Queer Interiors,” an exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10 Art Museum Dr., Baltimore), has opened one bedroom to the public that intimately explores the LGBT community.
“Queer Interiors,” which runs through August, is part of BMA’s Commons Collaboration series centered on the theme “Imagining Home.” Transgender artists Jaimes Mayhew and Rahne Alexander heard about the project and decided to create a bedroom centered on queerness.
The exhibit features “Identity Shelves,” a display that holds personal artifacts from various people’s homes, and the “LGBTQUI Home Movie Quilt,” that features a video project of changing photographs of individuals from Baltimore’s LGBT community. The movie quilt is designed similarly to Baltimore’s album quilts and the iconic AIDS Quilt. The most eye-catching piece is a giant bed with a wooden headboard that visitors are invited to sit on.
The room is designed to look like an everyday bedroom and for Alexander, the concept of ordinary was her inspiration for the exhibit, which was originally named “Queer Quotidian,” a word meaning ordinary.
“For many years I worked in a retail environment where, for a lot of people, I was the first or only trans person they had real interactions with,” Alexander says. “As that happened, it became clear to me that was one of the better forms of activism I had ever engaged in. Just providing that kind of connection, a very ordinary and mundane kind of thing. There’s a huge power in that. So that’s something that really fueled our proposal.”
As for why the pair chose a bedroom as the focal point, Mayhew says its a place of contention for the LGBT community.
“Rahn and I started talking about what it means to queer a home,” Mayhew says. “The bedroom obviously is where a lot of laws are made about queer bodies and what we are and aren’t allowed to do.”
Alexander and Mayhew pitched the idea to BMA in February, 2016 and their project was accepted by April. With funding from the museum, they transformed the space near the Joseph Education Center into a queer bedroom.
The “LGBTQUI Home Movie Quilt” was one of the more collaborative pieces in the exhibit. Alexander and Mayhew asked for submissions from the Baltimore community to create the quilt. Alexander says they wanted to take advantage of technology to create an exhibit that differentiated from other queer exhibits.
“Everything that is in this exhibit is modular from the identity shift shelf, to the quilt to the bed,” Alexander says. “So the idea was to try to create a more broadband depiction than we’ve seen before to make the museum a more queer-friendly space.”
Alexander says she’s received feedback from members of the LGBT community who have said the exhibit “resonates with me in a phenomenal and fundamental way.” Mayhews thinks LGBT people may not learn anything new about their community, since they are a part of it, but hopes they will benefit from seeing an LGBT exhibit in the museum.
For Mayhews, it’s also important for the non-LGBT community to get educated when they visit.
“If you’re queer-identified and savvy of some of the language than you may or may not learn something from the exhibit but might walk away feeling represented in some kind of way,” Mayhew says. “But I also think it’s really important for those visitors who are not LGBT- identified to learn something from it and feel more depth and understanding of every day life of (LGBT) people.”