Rowan Renee

Airport Beach
Artistic Discipline: Multidisciplinary
Category: Brooklyn Arts Fund
Grant Year: 2021
Location: DUMBO

Airport Beach is a site-specific installation and public program that will be exhibited at Smack Mellon from November 2021 – January 2022. The exhibition uses weaving to process, repair, and reassert dignity into archival material that records State persecution towards LGBTQ+ people in South Florida.

I began searching newspapers and other official records after my father died in prison, in 2011, while serving time for a homosexual sex offense. I used this archiving practice as a way to reconstruct gaps in my family history and find traces of the queer culture that shaped the Southern landscape we lived in.

The histories I found through official sources did not celebrate queerness; instead they documented the expansion of State violence used to criminalize gender and sexually non-conforming people. I began to see connections between policing tactics begun the 1950s and 1960s and contemporary events. Weaving allowed me to reinterpret these painful histories through my body, using the loom as a site for care. I screenprinted the original, unedited texts onto the warp threads of the loom. As I began to weave, the words and images distorted to the point where faces and names became illegible. Through elevating and eliding in the same motion, these tapestries became something between a protective shield and a memorial.

Airport Beach will be accompanied by a public panel and workshop. The panel will bring together historians, scholars, artists and activists to discuss the resistance movements and strategies for resilience that have arisen out of the Southern landscape to fight persecution. A letter-writing workshop will introduce members of the public to the practice of letter-writing as a critical vehicle for support, connection and care for currently incarcerated LGBTQ+ people.