Group exhibition explores the LGBTQ+ experience in Columbus

Where the political meets the personal is where “Chromatic” lives.

In acknowledgment of and reflection on the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots, Wild Goose Creative asked LGBTQ+ artists to reflect on their queer experience in Columbus with that history in mind. The assembled artwork, made by more than 20 local LGBTQ+ artists, including feature artist Ashley Bartnick, both recognizes social gains earned over that 50 years but also the importance of continued progress.

“It's great that Wild Goose is doing this, especially in this political climate when it's imperative to have these safe spaces,” said Bartnick, a self-taught fiber artist.

Bartnick said she has been making art with yarn for “many years,” eventually creating her own patterns, including 3D creations of animals and portraiture work, the latter of which was brought into sharper focus during the 2016 election cycle.

“I made myself portraits of Hillary (Clinton) and Bernie (Sanders). People liked them, so I figured, ‘Let's see what else I can do,'” she said. Her work gravitated toward cultural and political figures who inspired her, but who also spoke to her specifically as a member of the LGBTQ community.

“A lot of it was the music I listened to and the authors I was reading,” Bartnick said. “I grew up in rural Minnesota, where there was really no gay representation whatsoever. When I first encountered Prince, it was my introduction to the idea that not having to conform was possible.”

David Bowie, author Radclyffe Hall and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were other figures given Bartnick's 3D yarn-portrait treatment. Bartnick said her intent was always personal first, rather than political.

“I can't speak for an entire community. These are just people I admire, people who I think of first as someone who's influenced me,” Bartnick said.

Self-taught painter Heather A. Moore also found fertile ground in the political/personal intersection.

“There hasn't been anything politically motivated in my painting, so this particular work… I don't know if it would have happened without this show,” Moore said.

Moore said her upbringing in a religious family in Northeast Ohio left her without an understanding that “gay was even a thing.” A confused adolescence was followed by an early adulthood during which she discovered she was bisexual.

“There was no home for me. The gay community did not want me and the straight community did not want me,” Moore said. “My experience as a queer person was dark.”

Moore found a home in Columbus, where she is raising a “non-binary, 15-year-old daughter.”

“She is involved with Kaleidoscope Youth Center. It's mind-blowing to me that it even exists. There are resources that are amazing to me to see in just one generation, so much support, how much more open we can be and how the tone has changed, to the point where she's teaching me,” Moore said. “That's what I'm painting.”

Moore said this project may lead to more social themes in her work. “It's important to protect that progress and not let our kids lose ground,” she said.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots is one way of doing that, Wild Goose Creative Executive Director Patrick Roehrenbeck said, while also pulling in personal narratives.

“I knew the history of people who had fought for [the queer community], but that was in the past. For me, it was Matthew Shepard, who was only a few years older than me. That opened up that part of the world to me: We are not all safe, these things happen and it's not OK,” Bartnick said of the gay University of Wyoming student attacked in 1998 (Shepard later died of injuries sustained in the assault). “But I'm not trying to put out a statement. For my art, it's more a celebration of representation.”