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Chroma 14: Jimm Rolls Memorial Art Exhibition, at the Glow Gallery

Artwork by CJ Szatkowski

Out Loud

In the pulsing heart of Allentown is the Glow Gallery at 224 Allen Street. Gay-owned and operated, it has as part of its mission a dedication to exhibit LGBT, local and emerging artists. Glow shares a space with MyBuffaloPride—Pride gift shop and the offices of In the Loop, a magazine celebrating and supporting Buffalo’s LGBT community.

Currently the gallery is featuring 18 artists in Chroma14, a memorial exhibition dedicated to Jim Rolls, longtime gay activist and cultural community advocate. A leader in gay rights before the cause rose to widespread public consciousness and commitment, he contributed his money, time, legal expertise even his home to assist many vital causes, organizations and individuals. He was extremely proud of his role in the revitalization of downtown Buffalo, having helped establish Theater Place and the Tralf Music Hall.

The show is the summer opener sponsored in part by the entrepreneurial juggernaut that is Marcus L. Wise, owner of 464 Gallery on Amherst Street. His mode of operating is a kind of “speed-show” concept giving artists a ten day shot that keeps new work on view at two week intervals. The quick turn-over of exhibitions has its limitations as far as artists getting reviewed in print with a schedule frequently overlapping weekly printed issues.

Artists in the current show for the most part do not loudly signal LGBT in presenting their artwork. There are of course pieces illustrating the strongest public identity of gay culture; a patchwork photo collage of male figures in uninhibited poses serves to account for most mainstream stereotypical anticipations. A large painting of a prone figure in a fetal-like pose cradling the head is set off by a table bazaar inventory of merchandise in candy-hued rainbow colors presenting “fun” wearable items as well as a selection of gay themed literature and wall clocks with rainbow colored cyphers. Within the close confines of the “Glow” are artists who are known locally who don’t necessarily present intrinsically gay themed art. As in the work hung in the kiosk devoted to LGBT photography at Echo Art Fair last summer there are few particular cultural signifiers specific to a gay aesthetic. That said, it is hard to miss the wall piece of a naked man sporting a military cap and whalebone bustier.

Part of the opening night event was an interactive installation by Tsas and Dana Saylor—two artists from Wise’s founding of Emerging Leaders in the Arts, Buffalo (ELAB). Titled “Monument to Survival,” it was a hanging wall piece, a black cloth with instructional panels inviting individuals to express with a colorful Sharpie on little discs of paper their inspired moments, the significant events, admired persons, the music, books, the media issues that gave them the strength to “come out” to feel supported in their personal revelation to family, friends and their world. The installation was also an invitation to straight persons in close sympathy and spirit with the LGBT community to pen their own inspirations. The idea was to create a library of recollections. Beyond stellar celebrity icons as John Waters and Cindy Lauper were penned responses to such inspirations as “when Madonna kissed Brittany”, “Degrassi”, “Bayard Rustin,” “The Great Gatsby”, and “Topless in the SF Pride parade ‘78.” The anonymous confessional art—by turns clever, winsome, sad, instructive and thoughtful was pinned on the draped cloth in a constellation of paper orbs each revealing a little whisper of revelation amidst the celebratory clamor signaling the beginning of Buffalo Pride Week.

Outside the gallery, threading through the widening throng of patrons with wine glass in hand, one gazed up at a wall mural being painted on the side of the building. Winning the generous grant provided by embrace WNY to design and create the mural is Chuck Tingely, another artist from the cohort of Wise’s 464 Gallery. Tingely is perched on a tall ladder as he applies can after can of spray paint to the red brick wall surface fleshing out his image of a boy folded almost impossibly double, sitting in a crumpled paper boat while wearing a light house for a hat. The boy has a worried but determined expression—so does Tingley trying to finish the rest of his work before dark. But nighttime will only make the opening of Pride Week beam brighter as the live DJ spins a lively scene in the rear courtyard into clusters of bobbing partygoers and the line grows longer at the OutLoud Photobooth. Let the wild rumpus start.

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