Nasher Public: Liss LaFleur

Artist Interview / Entrevista con la artista

Liss LaFleur talks about childbirth, LGBTQ+ visibility, and community building through storytelling. Hear more perspectives from artists and curators on their experience exhibiting work through Nasher Public.

On The Queer Birth Project

 

The Queer Birth Project is a five-year project with the goal of documenting and sharing the childbirth experiences of queer people in America, including LGBTQ+++ folks. The structure of this project is based on a re-envisioning of the birth project by feminist artist Judy Chicago. This work directly recognizes the significance of visibility and seeks to promote an intersectional and radically inclusive view relating to childbirth in America.

The exhibition consists of three works: a large-scale immersive fringe installation, two neon light sculptures, and a digital soundscape. Birth fringe (yellow) (2022), consists of rows of cascading yellow fringe that take up the majority of the gallery. In my practice, fringe stands in as a queered, non-curtain, soft architecture that I utilize as both a philosophy and a time-based practice. As a philosophy, fringe transforms. It takes up physical space, it sparks joy, and it asks people to slow down.

The two neon works included in this exhibition are titled Growing bodies (2022) and It is strange to take up so much space (2022). Growing bodies (2022) documents the chronology of my partner's body through her pregnancy. The outlines, originally recorded using a Sharpie marker in my studio, are illuminated through a series of rainbow-colored neon lines. My partner, a masculine-centered queer person, never planned to carry our child. However, after three years of my own infertility, she decided to try, and it worked. This piece is personal to me, and while it documents our own transition into parenthood, it also recalls the flexibility and multiple ways that queer families can be formed.

The second neon piece, It is strange to take up so much space (2022), is a handwritten excerpt collected from one survey response to the question, “How do you feel about the size and changing shape of your body during pregnancy?” Their answer prompts us to think about both the physical and physiological changes that occur with pregnancy. As queer parents, we move through spaces that are not designed for us. We develop new relationships to family, and we fight for a sense of freedom and inclusion. I really love this phrase as a proposition that asks us to question space both inside and outside of the body.

The final piece is a soundscape that fills the gallery with stories of queer birth. Using direct quotes from two questions in our ongoing research relating to the body and dysphoria. I've woven together multiple narratives into a 40-minute libretto for the voice. Singing these reflections on changing bodies and identities is meant to elicit a sense of joy, recognizing, celebrating, and creating a new space for community.

On Reproductive Health and Parental Rights

This is the first installation of The Queer Birth Project. It's a proof of concept, it's arts-based research, it's a collaboration, and, most of all, it's an invitation for other people to participate and share their stories. As an artist, I'm interested in utilizing technology as a radically poetic tool that allows us to reimagine our personal and collective struggles. This is the largest fringe sculpture that I've made to date, and my first collaboration with the sociologist Katherine Sobering. At the heart of this project is storytelling and community building, and we plan to continue building this project through three outlets: a national survey where LGBTQ++ families can share their stories, a collection of visual artworks for exhibition, and, eventually, a publication. This exhibition focuses on the body and dysphoria, and it is the first of many thematically based exhibitions to come.

On Storytelling and Community Building

We are living in wild times, and I cannot think of a more significant moment in our history to be creating this work, to try and relate to others, to find joy through adversity. Just last week, the Supreme Court released documents threatening to overturn Roe v Wade, removing access and autonomy around reproductive health. Our own governor in the state of Texas is actively working to revoke parental rights to the parents of trans kids, imposing painful and unnecessary burdens on these young people and their families. The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world without a national program for paid parental leave and BIPOC individuals are still three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes. The climate in the state of Texas can be openly hostile to queer people. And through this work, we hope to expand cultural ideas relating to birth and family building. We also hope to encourage others to participate, to take the survey, or reach out to us.

Both Katie and I are queer parents raising children in Texas. Having the first installation of The Queer Birth Project take place at the Nasher is meaningful and feels both magical and impactful. I couldn't have imagined an exhibition like this when I was a young person, and it would have affected me in so many ways. The experience of creating this work for the Nasher with institutional support at this specific moment in time opens up the museum space to LGBTQ+ communities and shares this work in a meaningful and inclusive way.

Nasher Sculpture Center
2001 Flora Street
Dallas, Texas 75201
214.242.5100
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