Where the Tracks End

Scott Vanidestine (Champaign, IL)


Through signs, signifiers, and symbols that position queer individualism against the homogenization of gay culture, I use the visual as a vernacular which allows “gay” to become universal. My work employs implication, innuendo, and “queer” jokes as materials by using the structures and systems of masculinity, gestures of queer identity, and the sexualized appropriation of space. My studio practice has been dedicated to exploring gay identity through an understanding of a collective queer visual culture. My work pushes the viewer to question—both politically and personally—their ideas about gender, “the other”, notions of pleasure, identity archetypes, constructed LGBTQ “characters”, and the structures and systems of and about masculinity.

My works challenge the viewer to decode objects based on an individual’s knowledge of gay mores. The concept of “place” has a direct relationship to my work, and I am specifically interested in how the understanding of spaces as “gay” (whether obtained previously or through my work) informs and provides certain viewers a new familiarity of queer forms. I’m not necessarily interested in teaching a greater audience about these systems or symbols (rainbow flag, “friend of Dorothy”) but rather in showcasing their existence as examples of the differences in sexuality, many of which developed historically out of necessity.

The appropriation of symbols and objects as tools to pass information visually is not a new idea. Underground Railroad Quilts, Handkerchief Code, Hobo symbols, and tagging have all been used to transfer coded messages, mark ownership, or indicate identity. Many of my works draw on a family history of quilting, sewing, and woodworking. Often times the materials I use carry a deeper connection to place, symbolism, or symbolism through storytelling. Within the process of making and later installing these objects, I am able to reveal or conceal this deeper connection as I choose, similar to the way gay persons can reveal or conceal their sexual identity as they so choose.

My research concentrations include pornography, beauty, desire, and pleasure but I’m also invested in queer theory, gender dynamics, and masculinity studies. My work meditates on identity—be that personal, American, male, gay male, or LGBTQ—and how the body, figuration, and abstraction are tools in exploring the duality and obscurity in the current search to define the illusive “queer aesthetic.”

In the end, at the root of every relationship is a yearning for intimacy, which often begins with, or sometimes is confused for, desire. My work aims to illustrate, explore, and expand upon that intimacy and desire by focusing on the body as the object of said desires. I use sculpture and installation to create an understanding of a collective queer culture and to bring attention to the sometimes hidden relationships between space and longing.