Strength of Queer Identity Through Art

To start off the first-annual Queer Culture Festival, Irvine Queers prepared for a night of hip art, spoken word, and live music. This event was a first for Irvine Queers, who pulled it off with grace and apparent expertise. Students and other LGBT clubs from other universities showed support to the more artistic and cultural side of Irvine Queers.
Amanda ‘Abbey’ Abeynayake, is a second-year film major who not only organized and directed this event, but also demonstrated her talent in making films. ‘Gypsy’ mystified the captivated audience of the Social Science Lecture Hall, as a belly dancer’s eyes danced in the light of her sparkling gown and a crackling fire. The movie broke stereotypes in a similar way that the stories that were told that night.
The open mic coordinators were Lenna Nguyen, a UC Irvine graduate of 2006, and third-year biological science major Michelle Chang.
Every person who spoke told of their personal experiences of finding acceptance for their sexual orientation, finding love from others, and most of all, feeling comfortable with their own identity. The words, whether from speeches or the monologues that UC Riverside students performed, poured out from their mouths. Sitting in SSLH, you could feel their passion for showing who they are, and the inner strength it has taken them to get this far.
The talented guitarist and singer Melineh Kurdian impressed Irvine Queers and students with her performance that recalled much of her experiences with coming out. Melineh grew up in Kansas and has played music all of her life, from the piano, to the cello, and finally settling on the guitar. She toured in Austin with Julie Lloyd and Lewis Clark, and other parts of the Midwest, working on an album called ‘Girl Parts.’ She also just released her album ‘From where You Are.’ She will be touring again in May and is currently recording a second album.
Her song ‘Devil’s Girl’ relates to all those who have had coming-out stories to tell. Hers reflects the alienation and prejudice that she felt as a lesbian when first dealing with her sexual identity. Standing proud with guitar in hand, Melineh rocked out on the stage, expressing her love for music and pride in being part of the IQ community that night.
Overseeing the art show was art director, Hailee Pollard, a first year drama major, who could be seen scurrying anxiously around the artwork, making final adjustments to the display set up. Her hard work radiated as numbers of onlookers were drawn with curious eyes into the classroom out of the rain.
Casually walking by with some of the provided refreshments, it was hard not to notice the series of photographs fixed in the center of the room. The series called ‘Boy Who Lost His Smile’ is a narrative by third-year studio art major, Grant Komjakraphan. An English-scripted font tells its viewers the ‘fairytale’ story of a homosexual teenager committing suicide. This story is further depicted by the photos that connect the text to real life, making the words applicable to anyone who at once felt those same emotions of isolation, bigotry and verbal or physical harassment about one’s sexual orientation.
Another skilled artist with a camera intent on breaking stereotypes of gender roles is third year studio art major, Allison Santos. Her photography series called ‘What We Have Is Not What We Are’ aims at deconstructing social constructions of gender through the means of dressing her female models in ‘typical’ male clothing.
The Queer Culture Festival was a success and exposed the Irvine community and students to culture and art. Although IQ demonstrated their ability to pull off this event, they faced trouble getting funding and support for it.
Nevertheless, Abeynayake is looking forward to ‘getting more people involved in annual IQ festivals’ and hopes to achieve just that. The Queer Culture Festival provided a place for culture and art to come together, allowing IQ students to express themselves.