Peninsula art installation highlights LGBTQs

  • by Marijke Rowland
  • Wednesday February 1, 2023
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Some of the images in the public art installation "Ordinary People" are shown in the Art Kiosk in Redwood City. Photo: Peter Moen
Some of the images in the public art installation "Ordinary People" are shown in the Art Kiosk in Redwood City. Photo: Peter Moen

The creator of a new public art installation showcasing everyday LGBTQ people in Redwood City hopes it will help counter harmful political rhetoric about the community.

The piece, titled "Ordinary People," is from gay artist Peter Moen, a longtime San Jose resident. His exhibit features more than 50 oil paint portraits of LGBTQ community members. The installation, a partnership between the Redwood City Improvement Association and Fung Collaboratives, will be on display 24 hours a day through March 12 at the city's public Art Kiosk.

Moen, 65, had studied with Lance Fung, the chief curator of the Fung arts collaborative. Last year, while discussing ideas for exhibits at the Art Kiosk, which allows artwork to be displayed in a glassed-in area with the public viewing from the outside day and night, Moen said they decided to highlight the LGBTQ community.

Given the proliferation of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country, including the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law in Florida and a wave of new anti-trans state laws, Moen said he wanted his artwork to show real community members. Florida's law, signed last year by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Last Saturday, Utah Governor Spencer Cox (R) signed into law a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth. The national Human Rights Campaign stated in a news release that it's the first anti-LGBTQ law signed in 2023.

"People say a lot of things about us, but really most of us are just pretty ordinary people. Some of us are boisterous, some of us are shy. But we're not all those evil things people say we are," Moen said. "We're just nice, normal people."

The exhibit opened with 53 portraits, all that Moen has painted since he started working on the project last July. But that number is expected to grow, as Moen will continue painting LGBTQ portraits through the run of the installation.

His subjects include several acquaintances from the region along with members of his church, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. That includes his friend and fellow San Jose resident Melva Mack, who identifies as pansexual. Mack said she was thrilled to be part of the project.

"My child, my son, is trans, and I am always really mindful of just being there for him. I am also mindful that I'm African American, and in the African American community sometimes it can be more difficult to be accepted for who we are. This is a good way to say we're out here, we're accepting and loving," said Mack, 61. "We're here to make this world better. We're all doing this together."

Moen wants to have at least 75 portraits done before the installation closes. He also hopes to bring the exhibit to other venues, and will continue painting subjects as it goes along. The individuals can reside anywhere and do not need to call the Bay Area home.

People interested in having their portraits painted by Moen can reach out via email to [email protected]

The sittings — which can be done in person or from a submitted photo — are done at no cost, and subjects can choose to keep their paintings once the Art Kiosk installation ends.

"We are just normal ordinary people. We have one difference and that's in one letter of an acronym," Moen said. "Once people see how normal we are maybe they'll realize, 'Oh yeah, they are just people like us.'"

The "Ordinary People" installation will be on display free of charge at the Art Kiosk, at 2208 Broadway Street in Redwood City, through March 12. Moen will attend a closing reception for the exhibit at 11 a.m. March 11.

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