SF State’s “Beyond Binary” exhibit celebrates trans and gender-nonconforming artists
The exhibit features over 25 pieces of art from trans and gender-nonconforming artists.
September 18, 2022
The SF State Fine Arts Gallery is back with “Beyond Binary,” an exhibit over two years in the making, which celebrates trans and gender-nonconforming artists.
Open from Sept. 17 to Oct. 27, the idea originated as a contribution to the Feminist Art Coalition. In response to the 2020 presidential election, the coalition called for galleries and museums across the nation to host feminist-forward exhibitions and programs.
After consideration, a committee of SF State’s Fine Arts Gallery advisors decided to broaden the topic to include nonbinary and gender-nonconforming art.
According to information provided by the Fine Arts Gallery, “Beyond Binary” serves to discover what dialogic space opens up when considering gender beyond traditional binary limitations. It also poses a question: “What lies beyond prohibitive gender definitions?”
Originally planned for 2020, the exhibit was delayed due to COVID-19. However, the extra time allowed for several new pieces to be created, making for a larger event. There are a total of 25 pieces of art on display from 20 different artists.
The artwork was created by an array of both local and international artists. While some of it was made as recently as this year, the earliest piece—a video by Chris E. Vargas titled “Have You Ever Seen A Transsexual Before?”—was created back in 2010. Some artists revisited their older work and found pieces that they thought applied to the theme of the exhibit.
Several mediums of art were used in the gallery including photographs, videos, paintings, drawings, textiles and sculptures.
“Beyond Binary” was curated by Fine Arts Gallery director Sharon Bliss, SF State professor and resident curator Kevin Chen and Oakland-based independent curator Roula Seikaly.
The Fine Arts Gallery rotates between exhibits created by outside artists and SF State students. According to Bliss, this allows them to present art of the highest level.
“We want to bring the best art we possibly can to this space and this audience,” Bliss said. “At the same time, we want students to realize that it’s just as relevant to show their work where their teacher’s work might’ve just been in the last round, or some artist that they read about in an art history class.”
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Students were still heavily involved in the process of making “Beyond Binary” happen. Members of Chen’s Exhibition Design class were responsible for installing the artwork, setting up the lighting, writing and hanging labels and promoting the exhibit on social media.
Saturday’s opening reception boasted a strong attendance, with each display surrounded by a huddle of spectators. Nearly 100 attendees occupied the gallery at the same time, the crowd growing over the course of the event. The exhibit attracted students, faculty, alumni artists and even art enthusiasts unaffiliated with the school.
“It’s a great statement that the university is coming out in such a big way to support trans and nonbinary artists,” said artist Ben Cuevas. “I think it’s a great step for inclusion and diversity and embracing this community that is such a big part of this city.”
Cuevas has two pieces on display: “Non-binary Code,” an investigation of the binary nature of knitting, as well as “Duality #1: Masculine/Feminine,” an interpretation of gender identity.
“It brings perspective,” said attendee Hadley Raysor. “There’s so much self-expression happening here. It makes me feel like I have context, it makes me feel mirrored, it makes me feel seen, it makes me feel like my community is present on campus and present in the community.”
The Fine Arts Gallery can be found in Room 238 in the Fine Arts building. “Beyond Binary” is open Tuesday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.