Who is me?

Hennes Art Company’s “Identities Explored” puts GLBT art up for sale across the street from the Basilica.

David Cook talks about one of his creations Tuesday at the Hennes Art Company in Minneapolis.  Cooks “ladies,” which were designed for his musical “Lemonade for the Lawnboy”, will be presented Friday for the exhibition called Identities Explored.

Joe Michaud-Scorza

David Cook talks about one of his creations Tuesday at the Hennes Art Company in Minneapolis. Cooks “ladies,” which were designed for his musical “Lemonade for the Lawnboy”, will be presented Friday for the exhibition called Identities Explored.

Mark Brenden

 

What: âÄúIdentities Explored: A celebration of art from the GLBT communityâÄù

Where: Hennes Art Company, 1607 Hennepin Ave.

When: June 24 through July 30. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If there’s a month to explore identities, June is it. Gay Pride Month shows its face in various forms throughout our (gay-friendliest) city âÄî through film festivals, art galleries and general demeanors on the street. One of its most poignant events, âÄúIdentities Explored,âÄù opens this weekend at Hennes Art Company, symbolically nestled under the shadow of the Basilica of St. Mary.

Hennes Art Company is known in Minneapolis art circles as one of the hottest commercial galleries in the market. And owner Greg Hennes has a knack for turning art into money. Though the featured artists âÄîthe explorers of these identities âÄî will all be members of the GLBT community, Hennes said he insisted that the subject matter not be overtly GLBT.

âÄúI guess it can be controversial, but if itâÄôs something that no one would ever hang in their house, then thatâÄôs not my purpose for having an art show,âÄù Hennes said. âÄúMy purpose is to have a successful art business and help artists make a living. If they want to get political then they should go to a non-profit gallery.âÄù

Curator Larry Miller abided by the sentiment to a degree, he did choose a piece by Matthew Wettlaufer that depicts two soldiers cuddling on a train. But Miller and Hennes agreed that the pieces that perhaps do pack some political undertones are above all well-crafted pieces of art, and their beauty may supersede their politics.

âÄúSome people see the GLBT community as a block. They can dehumanize us into little boxes,âÄù Miller said. âÄúI really find that us trying to get a diversity of artists in the show that are perhaps saying different things will make it harder for people to look at us as a political block and more as people.âÄù

That the gallery stands so close to the Basilica is rather symbolic when considering local artist James Michael Lawrence’s piece.

For Lawrence, the exploration of identity was an epic journey. After a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, he turned to âÄúdope and alcohol and everything elseâÄù to escape from his loneliness. After decades of drug and alcohol abuse, his turmoil culminated in a suicide attempt in 1989. From there, he decided to come to grips with who exactly he was. He has been sober ever since.

âÄúIdentity is kind of a slippery slope,âÄù Lawrence said, âÄúand if you are trying to maintain one that is not really you, it takes so much energy. Forget it, I donâÄôt have that much left. I decided to just go with whatever I am.âÄù

In 1998, through a newspaper ad, he met Peter Wilson. The two hit it off and accepted each otherâÄôs distinct pasts, and, in 2009, traveled to Iowa to marry.

ThatâÄôs the basis of LawrenceâÄôs piece in âÄúIdentities Explored,âÄù a documentation of their wedding in a series of digital photographs. It’s a piece that, while adhering to Hennes’ code of beauty over politics, certainly takes on a new meaning in the face of the impending vote on a constitutional gay marriage ban.

Even so, Lawrence sees his art as something that transcends sexual orientation.

âÄúIâÄôm a gay man. I donâÄôt oftentimes say that IâÄôm a gay artist,âÄù Lawrence said. âÄúThe art is the art.âÄù