A Visit to Tulsa’s Center for Queer Prairie Studies



“It appears like somebody’s gay-ass condominium,” curator Karl Jones mentioned of his exhibition The Center for Queer Prairie Studies, which debuted in historic downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

He wasn’t improper. The partitions of Flagship, a public undertaking house, had been slathered in bubblegum pink paint and adorned with work in addition to private belongings of queer Prairie icons together with Adah Robinson, Bruce Goff, and Lynn Riggs. Complimenting these had been works by modern 2SLGBTQ+ Prairie artists, contextualized by historic paraphernalia like a flash digital camera from the Queer Digital camera Assortment Society, Sixties Barbie dolls, and an authentic Broadway recording of Oklahoma! 

Set up view from The Middle for Queer Prairie Research (courtesy Dan Farnum/Tulsa Artist Fellowship)

The Middle for Queer Prairie Research (CQPS) imagines an age-old establishment, one which has accomplished the work of archiving and exhibiting artwork by 2SLGBTQ+ of us from the prairie area of the USA, which extends from jap Montana to the prairie wetlands of Minnesota, and down by way of the jap components of the mountain states all the way in which to north Texas. 

“The Middle is all about figuring out queer artwork and expertise, and threading work by each modern and established makers on this area with the historic, cultural, and creative manufacturing of queer folks,” Jones informed Hyperallergic.

The Middle for Queer Prairie Research Dwelling Room (courtesy Dan Farnum/Tulsa Artist Fellowship)

Jones modeled the exhibition after the Victorian houses of the Boston Marriage and Twentieth-century flats of homosexual males in New York’s West Village. Artworks beautify the partitions and relaxation on the ground as if ready to be hung by an eccentric queer collector. He even included an space designed to appear like a lounge, full with a dialog pit. 

Jones conjured CQPS into existence by way of his work as a Tulsa Artist Fellow. It was in Tulsa, his hometown, the place he started his love affair with efficiency artwork and was an elementary college soar rope star.

Middle: Frankoma Pottery, “Rooster Trivet” (1967), clay and enamel (courtesy Dan Farnum/Tulsa Artist Fellowship), proper: Hen Mar Ben, “Phallic Vase” (2022), clay and enamel (courtesy Dan Farnum/Tulsa Artist Fellowship)

When Jones left Oklahoma, he by no means let go of his penchant for theatricality. He remembered his time in Washington, DC: “There was a drag troupe I used to be a part of, we made raunchy low-level character-based sketches and every part from movies to dwell performances. We additionally threw events. We’d have DJs, after all, however we’d additionally convey down performances from NYC, Montreal, and many others, as a result of I cherished DC nevertheless it was missing in an artwork scene.” He linked with ’80s nightlife curator Earl Dax, who helped entice worldwide expertise to Jones’s native occasions.

Jones took his efficiency observe to Baltimore and New York Metropolis, however the East Coast couldn’t hold him perpetually. He obtained the fellowship in 2019 and returned to Oklahoma together with his honed manufacturing expertise in tow.

“I began with an structure pageant targeted round Bruce Goff, who’s queer and, after Frank Lloyd Wright, the second most prolific Twentieth-century American architect, however not well-known due to scandals associated to his sexuality,” Jones famous. 

This pageant impressed the idea for the CQPS, which, along with the bodily exhibition, featured public programming occasions together with the Folks of the Prairie trend present, a screening of Lynn Riggs’s 1931 movie A Day in Santa Fe, a presentation by queer Kansas artist Peter Max Lawrence, and the Bimbo Summit, a drag collective that carried out within the CQPS lounge.

Set up view from The Middle for Queer Prairie Research (courtesy Dan Farnum/Tulsa Artist Fellowship)

Jones envisions the Middle for Queer Prairie Research as an ever-expanding exhibition. “There have been objects we weren’t in a position to get that we’d love to include in future reveals,” he identified. “Additionally, I feel the thought of geography could be so malleable; we will go to any assortment within the nation and re-identify and reimagine objects as being a part of the middle.” 

He aspires to work with different prairie-based establishments sooner or later, such because the College of Nebraska Lincoln and the Walt Whitman Middle, to create site-specific iterations of CQPS that proceed to establish established queer artists, modern artists, and prairie historic icons. 

“It’s straightforward for folks on the coast to jot down off the folks within the center,” Jones mentioned. “They’re those having anti-drag, anti-trans, and ‘don’t say homosexual’ laws. However there’s vital work that’s occurring right here in defiance of that, and a number of that work is inventive.”


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