UCO's Melton Gallery Showcases 'Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo'

"Gordon Fiedor Close Up" will be one of the photos displayed during the UCO Melton Gallery showcase of "Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo". Photo provided.

The University of Central Oklahoma's Melton Gallery will showcase the exhibt "Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo" May 15 – June 20, with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 1 at the gallery located in the Art and Design building on Central's campus.           

Consisting of 41 black-and-white photographs taken between 1988 and 1992, the exhibit documents the gay rodeo circuit and the lives of many of its participants in those years. The collected body of work not only serves as a stunning example of black-and-white portraiture and rodeo photography, it also explores the diverse and complex natures of individual and community identity in the West.           

"This photography holds more than meets the eye. Blake Little's images were captured during America's AIDS crisis in the late '80s and early '90s, when heteronormative society feared those within the BGLTQ+ community," said Jessica Williams, M.A., programming coordinator for galleries and collections in the College of Fine Arts and Design.

"The rodeo classically signifies strong, rugged masculinity, which many people, even now, do not associate with gay men. This exhibition transgresses stereotypes of the past and redefines the 'American West' mythology in terms of sexuality, gender and masculinity."

Drawn from an exhibition at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis as part of its "Out West" series, "Blake Little: Photographs from the Gay Rodeo" elegantly combines classic portraiture and rodeo action and informs each image with a complex and rich multicultural identity.

"Blake Little chronicles the proud tradition of this wholly American sport, from the action-packed arena floor to the rodeo cowboy's most intimate, contemplative moments behind the chutes," said Gregory Hinton, an independent curator who programmed the "Out West" series.           

This exhibition is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 25 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year.

"This is one of the Melton's first traveling exhibitions, which is an exciting opportunity for us to connect with the art community on a national level," Williams said.

"We knew Blake Little's images would resonate strongly for Oklahomans in the metro area. Politically speaking, this is a critical time to connect the recent past to the present, and the Melton seeks to showcase previously marginalized voices through art."

The Melton Gallery is free and open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays.

For a complete listing of UCO College of Fine Arts and Design events and performances, including those in the Melton Gallery, please visit cfad.uco.edu.

Copyright The Gayly - 5/17/2017 @ 3:18 p.m. CST