By Ann Daramola
Sounds of the musical duo, Postal Service, filled the Lionel Cantu Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Intersex Center as Kas Ocasio-Pare performed a dance she called the ‘digital salsa,’ while people milled around a festive spread of cheeses, crackers and drinks.
Students, faculty and other community members gathered to view the opening of a show titled “Women Who Love Women,” a collection of photographs taken by Jennifer Roberts. The photos document the relationships of queer women at UC Santa Cruz.
“Many of [the subjects] identify as queer or questioning, and I was there with them as they were going through that transition,” Roberts said.
Taken over the course of a year, the photographs are a collection of intimate moments and revealing portraits that work together to deconstruct some of the mainstream representations of queer women.
The photographs represent a generation of women who are working to establish their identities within a society that often represents them in only one light. Those present at the gallery opening were moved by the way Roberts captured candid, yet intimate moments between the couples.
“I’m really impressed with the exhibit and I think the quotes, especially, are really interesting,” said Erin Mizrahi, a Kresge College student, referring to the various passages accompanying the photographs. “They talk about the issue of the ‘look’ of the queer community.”
The quotes, which captured several complexities of the queer identity, were printed boldly on white paper, which was cut out and set against black paper.
“It’s not about what you look like,” one of the excerpts stated. “It’s who you care about.”
Another quote, commenting on the issue of hair in the queer community said, “Short hair. That’s a big thing. Hair’s huge!”
Roberts, a fourth-year Porter College student, began the photography project when she saw her friends at Kresge and Porter colleges adjusting to new lifestyles in their freshman year. By carrying her camera around with her all the time, Roberts said she slowly gained the trust of the women in her pictures. This trust showed through the photographs of couples participating in everyday events.
Soumya Said, a UCSC graduate student who attended the show, felt that the personal photos were captivating.
“I really like the action shots, especially the ones of women in intimate poses that aren’t necessarily sexual,” she said pointing out the photographs of a lesbian couple in a bookstore. “They’re just intimate.”
The photographs add an extra flair to the already-welcoming space that is the Cantu Center. There, Tam Welch, program coordinator, and other staff work on creating events and programs that will benefit queer students.
“I heard about the center through different events that were going on. And I come here a lot to study and just hang out. It’s a really nice center; it’s very welcoming,” Said commented. “And it’s nice because the university at large is not necessarily friendly [to] queer people, especially queer people of color.”
Robert’s exhibition is one of many events at UCSC that address the way queer women are perceived in society. It is also an example of how aspiring artists and students can use campus resource centers to get their art displayed without being declared art majors.
Roberts has also done photography projects documenting iPods at UCSC, as well as comparing Santa Cruz and Los Angeles. Her next project will explore America’s addiction to oil through sexualized representations of oil and women.
_This art exhibit will be shown through the end of April._