The first exhibition of the Henry Lehmann Gallery this semester is a solo show featuring the work of Vanier Communications student Mélusine Deirdre Abram.
“Innocent Until Proven Gay” features five 30 by 40 inch illustration boards with an enlarged fingerprint on each board. Each fingerprint is from the fingers on the artist’s right hand, and they are in the colors of the lesbian flag.
This exhibition opened on Wednesday, March 4th at UB, coinciding with Women’s Week at Vanier College. It was the perfect occasion to celebrate the diversity of experiences of women in our community.
Mélusine’s motivation to create this gallery show came from her desire to show her true self, and stop self-denying her identity. “I wanted to stop putting myself aside. This is me, this is who I am”.
Her original idea for the show was to have her personal story of coming out as a small part of her show, but as she developed her ideas, her experience of coming out as lesbian was what she wanted to foreground in her work.
Although her work in this exhibition tells her story, she says that “It’s my fingerprints and my identity, but I want to represent the whole community. We’re all there”. And this notion of inclusivity of all members of the LGBTQ+ community was what inspired Mélusine’s titles, which denote mass shootings against members of the community, and highlights the ongoing hate crimes repeatedly happening to LGBTQ+ people worldwide.
I, the Head Curator of the gallery along with the new gallery assistant Luis E. Montero Tello were interested in the memetic nature of the hand when curating this exhibition. Based on each fingerprint’s placement of the wall of the gallery and the off-center balance of the show, we wanted to replicate the motion of a palm facing upwards, the gallery being in the artist’s grasp.
This is exactly what Mélusine is doing through her work, as she is claiming her identity and displaying it proudly to others, by her own volition.
Mélusine said the experience of seeing her work in the gallery was unreal. She was really happy to see so many people come to her opening, and to have attendees come up to her and ask about her work.
Someone Mélusine was very thankful to have along her journey was Keith Orkusz, her drawing teacher in Communications. She says that she has become a completely different person between now and the beginning of her time in college, and she says Keith was a big part of that.
“He really pushed me, and he helped me believe in myself,” Mélusine explained.
He was the third person in Mélusine’s life that she confided in about her sexuality. She said, “It was a hard day, and he was there for me through everything”.
She said very warmly that Keith is like a dad to her, and that she wants to thank him for helping her in her journey.
As for future plans, Mélusine wants to put together more art shows. She said she is interested in the whole process and of course in making the artwork. Career-wise, she wants to become a tattoo artist.
Mélusine wants to continue to speak to subjects that are personal in her work such as issues of identity and the LGBTQ+ community. She wants to help erase the stigma and ignorance surrounding the community, stating that “we’re here, and we don’t mean any harm”.
She wants to create works that will help people feel, and begin to understand the adversity faced by LGBTQ+ people.
When asking Mélusine for advice for people who are not “out” with their sexuality, she said to “take your time, because it is very hard, but be gentle. You’re doing nothing wrong.”. One might say there is no need to feel guilty, as no crime was committed through you being your authentic self.
Mélusine would like to thank everyone who came to her opening, she was pleasantly surprised by all of the support she received.
If you have not seen “Innocent Until Proven Gay” in the gallery yet, it will be up until April 7th.
By India-Lynn Upshaw-Ruffner