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Flame Tempered Recap

Bushwick Now

[Text by Jen Plaskowitz]

[Photos by Winston Struye, Meryl Meisler, and Jen Plaskowitz]

Monday night 30-some people gathered two by two inside The Living Gallery in Bushwick for the closing of Slideluck artist Phoenix Lindsey-Hall’s solo-exhibit, Flame Tempered.  Inside they were greeted by smiling faces, the smell of warm soup, a projector screen, and a looming tumble of suspended ceramic baseball bats.

Back in July, when Slideluck Global was moving into its new home at Sandbox Studio Brooklyn, Slideluck began a collaboration with The Living Gallery that would allow one of the 26 Bushwick-area artists who participated in the Slideluck Bushwick II to have a one week solo show within the art space. On the night of the event it was Phoenix’s work that was selected by an audience poll and the show was announced officially a few weeks later.

Monday’s closing reception was the culmination of the collaboration.  Slideluck regulars would recognize the signature red tablecloths laden with delicious home cooked dishes, and the groups of friends talking over Brooklyn Brewery bottles.  As we chatted and dined, eyes were drawn to the ceramic sculptures that lined the walls, each one twisted and bent.

Although she was trained as a photographer, Phoenix’s current body of work, ‘After Kemf’ is ceramic.  The pieces in the series are each based on a specific LGBT hate crime.  As Phoenix explained in her artist talk, the objects are all of domestic objects, the most common in such crimes.  Taken from their moulds’ early, she takes their pristine forms and significantly alters them with her hands, recreating the violent actions that they were derived from.  At the center of the exhibition was the namesake piece, Flame Tempered, a tangle of curved and swooping bats.  This beautiful and delicate installation was based off an incident that happened a few blocks from The Living Gallery in 2008.

Perhaps to lighten the mood after her artist talk, Phoenix chose to screen the cult classic documentary “Paris is Burning” for The Living Gallery’s movie night. The film thoughtfully and at times humorlessly explores sexuality, class, and gender relations, and documents the end of the “Golden Age” of New York drag ball culture in the mid-to late 80’s.

After the screening people stuck around for a few more beers and a lot more mingling.  Something had changed over the course of the evening: before we had been strangers, talking mostly with friends.  Now we were mingling freely, discussing the art and the documentary, how both resonated with our experiences, fashions, housing situations, and rumors of where the next ball would be.  When The Living Gallery shut its doors at 11, everyone left with new friends, and I had a refreshed feeling of the community building power of Slideluck.

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