Earnest pride

Come Out, Come Out … Wherever You Are!
;Reception 7 p.m.-9 p.m. 
;Saturday, June 12
;Continues through 
;June 30 at Gallery Q 
;The Center, 946 N. Mills Ave.

At the beginning of every month the artwork changes at Gallery Q at the Center, a gallery run by the Florida Queer Art Collective – aka QUACK – a nonprofit made up of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and supportive straight artists. 

This week QUACK opens its newest monthly exhibit, timed in conjunction with Gay Days, called Come Out, Come Out … Wherever You Are! The show, which opened June 1, is a celebration of gay pride. The show is timed in conjunction with Gay Days, but its reception was strategically bumped to the second weekend, June 12, to avoid competition with Gay Days festivities in the tourist sector. 

Gallery Q serves as the big meeting room inside the Center, home of the Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Center of Central Florida Center, open since 1987 in the same spot on Mills Avenue. The visuals in the gallery run the gamut – mixed media, photography, drawings, watercolors and paintings. QUACK president M. Scott Morgan doesn't shy away from the fact that some of the artworks that appear in the gallery can be erotic in nature. The gallery is uncensored, unlike many GLBT art centers in the country.

Gallery Q's monthly soirees are well-established and usually have a built-in crowd. "We have an abundance of food appetizers, beverages and free admission," Morgan says. "It may not be palatial or glamorous, but it is home."

In addition to regulars, QUACK's receptions often draw the curious. "Sometimes we have people who will join the group on the spot," he says. "Sometimes we have people who will see the art that is on display and decide they are not coming back. That's the way it always is."

At QUACK's May 27 meeting, it's apparent that what, exactly, will hang on the walls for Come Out, Come Out … won't be fully determined until days before the opening, when members show up with works in hand for installation. During the meeting, paintings from May's show were still hanging – colorful depictions of Conway-area peacocks, painted by Jennifer Benson. Several days later, though, installation of some pieces for Come Out, Come Out … had begun, and one of Benson's pieces, aptly titled "Proud as a Peacock," remained. Another artist whose work will appear in the show, Parker Sketch describes his pieces as more geeky than gay. Several of his "brand-new pride-themed paintings" hang on the wall; one is a small acrylic on canvas titled "Gold Rings and Rainbow Flag," and there's no mistaking the message of the interlocking wedding bands. Member artist Josh Goldstein, an elementary school teacher who says he joined QUACK "seeking community and like-minded people," contributed an uncomplicated likeness of Judy Garland for the Come Out, Come Out … show. In it, her face is young and childlike and the only color is reserved for her bright red lips and hair.

"What I tried to do for the pride thing was to think back to my childhood – and I was such a gay child before knowing what being a gay child meant," Goldstein says. "I ruined many pairs of shoes trying to turn them into ruby slippers. … Garland is such an iconic gay figure, but she was actually a touchstone for me. And then I started listening to Bette Midler, and later everything that I could remember loving was stereotypically gay and I was doing it without even realizing it."

QUACK elder member Del Cain is contributing a mixed-media piece for the show. Called "Gay Days and Gray Days," it's constructed out of dark, lumpy packing foam and dabbed with paint – gold, green and purple – and dusted with glitters in the same colors. The message, says Cain, is that all people, gay or straight, have good and bad days; his own gay pride is reflected in the shimmering speckles. 

Nationally known artist Keith Theriot, a founding member of QUACK, says the group formed in 2003 as an offshoot of the Orlando Visual Arts League (OVAL). Theriot, who was fresh from New York then and creating works using his own blood as well as figurative male studies, felt that he and a few other artists – Lani Brito, Crawford and Joey Varga – didn't have the freedom to express themselves. To this day, he's still irritated when he recalls an incident in which one of his more homoerotic works was found next to a mop in a back room at an OVAL opening. Theriot remembers that he wanted to use the word "queer" rather than "gay" when naming the Queer Art Collective, because "you didn't have to be gay" to contribute to the shows – you just had to be "comfortable with all that." 

Morgan says QUACK today is made up primarily of gay men and women, but it does have a few straight members and some couples. "They come from all walks of jobs and careers and are differing ages – retired teachers, college students, recent graduates," says Morgan.

Theriot, who isn't as involved with the organization as he used to be, says he feels like a father who's stepped away from a grown child, but that QUACK is still very important to him; his piece for the June show, "Genesis," captures the love – two men locked in an endearing embrace. 

"They do a lot of good work," he says of QUACK. "[They] support one another though the insanity of trying to be an artist – a queer artist – and are an integral part of the art scene that has developed in Orlando over the past 10 years."


Other community outreaches


Wednesday, June 2: MBA Social Networking Event The Metropolitan Business Association serves as Central Florida's GLBT chamber of commerce and organizes the annual Come Out With Pride Events & Parade, Oct. 7-10. (6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Orlando Vista Hotel, 12490 State Road 535; $10; www.mbaorlando.org)

Friday, June 4: Spoken World Revolution: Special GLBT Edition 

Hosted by Society's Poet of 3rd Eye Alumni, with music by After Dark, singer/songwriter Corneilus Cure and Star 94.5's DJ Niecy-D and Ken-J. (8 p.m.-11 p.m. at Destiny Nightclub, 7430 Universal Blvd.; $20; 407-351-9800; www.orlandoblackpride.com

Thursday-Saturday, June 3-5: Orange County Health Department services Free HIV rapid testing and vaccines for Hepatitis A and B are offered. (noon-7 p.m. at the Gay Days Expo, Doubletree Resort Orlando, 10100 International Drive; free;          www.gaydays.com)

Thursday-Saturday, June 3-6: The We Are Not Saints GayDays Roundup Workshops, speakers, 12-step recovery meetings and "fun and fellowship" run around the clock in the Serenity Lounge hospitality suite in the host hotel. (Doubletree Resort Orlando, 10100 International Drive; free; gaydaysroundup.org)

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