Queer, for many, acts as an identifier. A proclamation of otherness or an unapologetic refusal to define oneself in the language of a culture not their own. Yet, most often queer acts strongest as verb. Queer: an action taken to dismantle that which does not apply. Queering spaces to give purpose. Queering materials and language to provide beacons and reminders of hope. Queering our narratives. Queerings the rules.
Through various methods of visibility, such as material culture or community driven discourse, my work aims to create lesbian cultural space for growth and empowerment. The reclamation of language, narratives, and sex positive dialogue works in opposition to patriarchal expectations and provides a sense of support for those feeling their stories are not part of the larger constellation of disenfranchised “others”. The reality is that queer bodies, specifically queer female bodies, need each other now more than ever.
Capitalizing on the perceptibility of certain materials and the overperformance of oneself, I begin to explore and push the boundaries of identity; reclaiming the underbelly of the visual culture while shining visibility on the queerness of my existence. Rooted between many places I am constantly drawing influence from the Instagram famous, those who wear their “plastic-ness” on their sleeves, and embrace fully the absurdity and spectacle of the feminine, and yet my life has never existed without the legacy and tradition of craft resting firmly on my shoulders.
The specificity of my materials is many times as important as my content, as I search for ways to utilize inherent metaphors or aesthetic qualities to reinforce my continued visual narratives. Through building these narratives surrounding queer female identity I contribute to the ontological experience of collective storytelling in which those who experience feelings of “otherness” find personal reclamation in the identification of a space made just for them. Through my use of adornment, glitter, and kitsch I elevate these materials while at the same time making cultural space for those who share in feelings of cultural invisibility.
I can see you. Do you see me too?
Shelby Wynne Richardson, a Rhode Island native, received her BFA in 3D-Fibers in May 2013 from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston MA. With a background in traditional craft-based making, her current practice merges the tangible object with language, community, and group experience. Richardson has been included in various group exhibitions such as RECLAMATION: Emerging Female Artists at the Nave Gallery in Somerville MA, Forms of Identity at the Kingston Gallery in Boston MA, and the Fresh Fiber Revisited Exhibition at The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton MA. She has published her own dissertation, titled "Glitter Pussy: Lesbian Pursuits in Crafting Culture". Richardson received her MFA in Studio Art from Maine College of Art in Portland ME in 2017. She currently lives and works in New Bedford, MA.