In the weeks since the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12th, national and international communities, including artists, have struggled to address the tragedy at hand. In addition to being the most horrific mass shooting in U.S. history, it occurred in a place that celebrates the very freedom and self-expression that artists have been known to champion. As news of the shooting broke and spread across international media outlets, images that evoke the scene, as well as tributes to the victims, have proliferated, and filtered into artworks, installations, and performances. We recently spoke to three artists who have honored the victims of Orlando through art over the past week. Below, artists E.V. Day, Terence Koh, and Barnett Cohen (of L.A. art space PSSST) share insights on how they’ve attempted to process this tragic event.
When Day heard about the shooting in Orlando, she was finishing a large window installation, Perpetual Motion (2016), which will be on display at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery in Saratoga Springs, New York, on July 2nd. In her signature style of deconstructing and suspending clothing, Day cut black fishnet body suits into sections and stretched them within a steel frame, attaching them with industrial steel turnbuckles. As she arrayed the fishnet material, figures began to emerge.
“After Orlando, I started adding more figures and I decided that I wanted the piece to suggest figures dancing,” she says. Knowing that the piece would be displayed in a large window, she thought of Twin Peaks Tavern, the famous gay bar in San Francisco’s Castro District that installed huge plate glass windows so that passersby could see everything happening inside. “I felt I was channeling that spirit, of pleasure and celebration, and it made me feel like I could do something,” she says. “At the same time, because of the suspension, there’s a tension, which suggests the other side—the limitations of our society, in which, unfortunately, people have to seek out certain spaces in order to feel safe.”