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John Q artist collective making national mark telling untold stories

May 28, 2013

From the west coast to the east coast, the innovative artist collective John Q is getting attention for a cluster of activities designed to showcase memory, history, archives and issues through a gay lens. 

This spring, the trio--which includes VCU Libraries' Wesley Chenault, Ph.D.--presented their latest work, The Campaign for Atlanta, at Atlanta's historic Cyclorama. Their so-called "visual essay" was a culmination of public discussions at the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco, during the National Queer Arts Festival, intensive reseach visits in Georgia and California, and two sessions at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center.

According to the organizers' press materials, The Campaign for Atlanta tells intertwining stories of migration, memory and the visual representation of history. The Cyclorama's large-scale, panoramic painting of the Battle of Atlanta is itself an artifact that traveled from city to city before landing permanently in Atlanta. A century after the Civil War, a young photographer and gay man Crawford Barton left his hometown of Resaca, Ga. - a key Civil War battle site - to migrate to Atlanta and then San Francisco. In the heady days between Gay Liberation and the AIDS epidemic, he created photographs of San Francisco gay culture that are now considered iconic. 

The Campaign for Atlanta features Barton's super-8mm movies of 1970s San Francisco, Resaca, and Atlanta, and uncovers connections between 19th-century landscapes and 20th-century counterculture; between military history and museum display; and between movements across painting and the cinema screen, and from city to country.

This is just the kind of untold story John Q tells.

Formed in 2009, John Q is an artist collective consisting of Wesley Chenault, Andy Ditzler, and Joey Orr. Chenault is head, Special Collections and Archives at James Branch Cabell Library.  

More about John Q

Upcoming events

  • October-December, Migrating Archives traveling exhibition, will be on view at VCU Libraries. E.G. Crichton, who teaches art at the University of California at Santa Cruz and created the traveling exhibit, will be in Richmond to speak and take part in programs tied to the exhibition.
  • Fall of 2014, John Q is part of a group show at the Zuckerman Museum of Art, Kennesaw State University, Ga. As part of an ongoing conversation about collaboration and memory, the museum is producing a catalogue about John Q's work that will put its work in an expanded scholarly context.
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