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Work / Art

Locker room talk: Gray Wielebinski on appropriating the visual, spoken and body language of baseball

For their graduating exhibition at the Slade School of Fine Art, Gray Wielebinski turned the iconography and perception of baseball on its head, in an installation that creates what they describe as “a dream-like queer locker room setting”. A Dog Pees on Things for More than One Reason appropriates the visual codes of the sport to explore themes of “national identity – specifically in the USA, and Americana – desire, myth-making, sports, memory and childhood, fashion and masculinity”; and Gray describes the intention behind the work as being “to blur the lines between reality, memory, projection, hope and mainstream media representations, and to reconsider the framework for how the locker room occupies our cultural imaginations.”

On Gray’s website bio, the artist describes their inspirations as “glitches, male bonding, queer temporality, podcasts, quantum mechanics, Jennifer Lopez’ green Versace dress at the 2000 Grammy Awards, conspiracy theories, clowning and Surrealism”; which are expressed in work that explores “gender and sexuality and how they intersect with other structures of power and identity”. Gray elaborates: “As I’ve begun to explore my own experience with my gender identity, and my relationship to my own body and socialization, I’ve been considering strategies for exploring identity in my work, specifically ambivalent relationships to masculinity. I create an iconography that both maintains and interrupts coded imagery to build an alternative space of both familiarity and discomfort, encouraging the viewer to recognize and deconstruct their relationship to familiar images, objects, spaces and notions of themselves and others.”

A Dog Pees on Things for More than One Reason took form as a mixed-media piece that includes soft-sculpture creatures, video, ceramic cups, custom jock straps, sewn and painted baseball cards, baseball bats cast from resin and concrete, textile tapestries, a customised textile “centipede” chair and a performance by dance artists Chester Hayes and Ted Rogers. “I’m interested in mixed-media installation-based work that ‘queers’ traditional modes of viewing and experiencing media and space,” Gray says, “particularly within a white cube context”. Collage – as a process and as a principle – plays an integral role in Gray’s practice, manipulating, shifting and reworking images, forms and ideas in a way that manages to both blur boundaries and perceptions of context and experience, and put the issues at play into sharp focus. “Even though mediums like soft sculpture and ceramics are new to me, it was helpful to think through how to work with them through a framework of collage, appropriation and re-contextualisation – both conceptually and aesthetically. Ultimately my practice becomes a way to engage directly with the realities and contexts in which we live” says Gray, “while at the same time imagining and proposing alternatives – even if it’s just in our imaginations.”

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Gray Wielebinski

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Gray Wielebinski

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Gray Wielebinski

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Gray Wielebinski

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Gray Wielebinski

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Gray Wielebinski