Excavating Experience: The Presence of LGBTQ People of Color in Cook County, IL

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May 22, 2019 through October 20, 2019

Leather is made up of diverse members, people form a variety of backgrounds whose aggregate experiences make up community.  People of color have a long history within every part of this community and their presence can be felt though it is not always recognize nor highly visible.  The experiences of members of a small segment of the leather community are put on view in this exhibition: LGBTQ members of color who live, celebrate, and help make Leather what it is in this country.

Taken from personal and organizational archives, Excavating Experience shines a light on theses histories and the individuals whose stories they tell. The presence of LGBTQ people of color - Asian, Middle Eastern, African American and Latinx leathermen and leatherwomen - is brought to the fore.  The photographs, ephemera, documents, and interviews are from the current collections of the Leather Archives and Museum.

As with everything at the LA&M, this exhibit is about exploring and sharing our leather history. The histories of LGBTQ people of color in leather have been left out of the mainstream histories and extend beyond the materials in this exhibition.  If you have objects, correspondence or other physical memories related to the people, events or organizations in this exhibition, please consider contributing them to the collection.

Alisa Swindell, curator of Excavating Experiences, is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she focuses on race and sexuality in the history of photography and works at the university's contemporary art space, Gallery 400. Ms. Swindell has previously worked on exhibitions at the St. Louis Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the New Orleans Museum of Art, taught art history at art colleges and universities, and written for exhibition catalogues and art and culture journals. For more than 10 years Ms. Swindell has collaborated with the Leather Archives & Museum in various capacities. As someone whose work centers on modes of representation for people of color and LGBTQ communities, she is very pleased to take on this project.