“Queer Kids” opens at Lamont Gallery

A new exhibition by M. Sharkey explores, and challenges, notions of identity.

By
Melanie Nelson
September 18, 2017
Dino Frederique at Lamont Gallery

“Queer Kids,” an exhibition featuring 27 luminous portraits by M. Sharkey, the New York-based photographer and filmmaker, opened last week at Lamont Gallery. Executed over a 10-year period beginning in 2006, it highlights LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual) teens primarily from the U.S. and Belgium.

The show’s official opening, on the evening of Friday, September 15, attracted a crowd of approximately 175 from the Academy community and beyond, and Sharkey gave a well-attended gallery talk the following morning. He described how the project grew organically from an exploration of his own adolescence and coincided with the increasing visibility of the LGBTQIA population made possible by social media.

Lamont Gallery Director and Curator Lauren O’Neal, who collaborated with Director of Student Activities Joanne Lembo to bring the show to Exeter, says she is thrilled with the exhibition and looking forward to hosting classes and the first Gender & Sexuality Alliance meeting in the gallery in the coming weeks.

During Saturday’s presentation, Sharkey explained that he usually begins the portrait-making process by identifying what kinds of music, books and fashion are meaningful to his subjects. Then, after selecting an ideal location, he works with a team of production assistants and hair and makeup artists to capture the image. The entire process, he noted, can take as many as four or five hours.

The results are mesmerizing, with a majority of subjects gazing directly at the viewer as if to challenge preconceived notions about identity. Descriptions accompanying each image document joy, pain, relief and hope.

In talking about the greater acceptance and legal rights that LGBTQIA people have achieved in recent years, Sharkey shared a story of his early days as a photographer. “As soon as I got to New York City, I starting photographing transsexuals. They were larger than life, and I was enamored of them, but I also had prejudices, misconceptions and misunderstandings because of a lack of knowledge about what it meant. Over the years, as my awareness and understanding grew, I feel like I achieved a higher level of consciousness, a kind of enlightenment. That’s something you can’t do on your own; you have to do it with other people.”

“Queer Kids” runs through Oct. 21, 2017.