On Saturday, September 25, Gogo Graham will present In Search of Meat Dress, a sculptural fashion project, in the culmination of her time at the BOFFO Residency Fire Island. The presentation will be displayed in the Meat Rack from 3 – 7 PM. Join BOFFO and Gogo Graham for a reception at 635 Fire Island Boulevard in The Pines. From here, clear directions will be available following Fire Island Boulevard into the Meat Rack. Graham’s piece will also signal the conclusion of the BOFFO Residency Fire Island for the 2021 season. Join us for drinks and absorb the striking body of work that Graham has completed during her time here, as well as say farewell to a stellar season.
Graham came to The Pines with the intention of examining the history and lived experience of trans women in an overwhelmingly gay male community. With In Search of Meat Dress, Graham broaches a simultaneously crucial yet uncomfortable subject to the Fire Island community — are trans individuals actively welcome in queer spaces? Is the “T” in “LGBTQ+” essentially a symbolically inclusive gesture rather than the active commitment to the community it is purported to be? Why are there so few trans women on an island that prides itself on queer inclusivity — why might trans women not feel comfortable here?
Set in the iconic Meat Rack, a wooded area between The Pines and Cherry Grove that has historically been a safe location to cruise for specifically cis gay male sex, Graham’s anthropomorphic sculptures simply exist. Crafted with reclaimed dead vegetation and found discarded materials, the humanoid creations are themselves a part of the natural landscape — they depict an integral component of a historically quintessential and unapologetically sexual section of the island. The Meat Rack is an apt metaphor for the trans exclusion in both The Pines and the queer community at large. While such exclusion is not always explicit, many trans people understandably feel uncomfortable in a space that has long catered to the needs and whims of white gay men, even as modern trans and racially inclusive renditions of the pride flag fly high and proud. When residents and visitors talk about the Meat Rack or The Pines, rarely do they mention the trans folks who paved the way decades ago — why are their stories excluded when we reminisce?
Placing the sculptures in this area disrupts its rose-colored portrayal and works toward reclaiming its history. Upon viewing, one must consider who the space is truly for when confronted with the figures’ eerie faces and disfigured bodies, which are made up of residents’ own waste and dead vegetation while cloaked in pieces from Graham’s Spring/Summer 22 Collection BOULDER! As illuminated in her recent artist talk, Graham’s research of the trans history of The Pines, including the 1968 documentary “The Queen,” the lived experience of Crystal LaBeija, and the overtly trans-exclusionary eligibility of the “Miss Fire Island” drag contest, has led her to highlight the vast transformation of the island itself — what was once viewed as a queer refuge from oppression has become something of a grand tourist destination.
“I walk out of my apartment and someone already wants to see my meat dress. No one waits for me to visit a rack, or weather worn, broken-and-rebuilt-every-other-day luxury barrier meat island. They’re there any day I leave, waiting to do something secret and fun with/at me. It’s sometimes sad but not always! Sometimes I’m in search of the minute hand pointing straight up to meat-o’clock, and my heart races, my eyes widen, my breath slows, and I feel my blood pushing me forward face first. I wonder what it’s like to go to an island, your rippling meatbag attachés waiting to slam into someone else’s, either not caring about what happened here or desperately hoping to revisit pain felt by others that they’ve never felt before themselves to maybe claim some as their own. Maybe I really don’t need to wonder what that’s like! I made these sculptures because I’m not being cruised here, what a relief; what a drag. Maybe they’ll see some fun without me.”