A unique celebration of images took place on Thursday June 25 to commemorate and look back over the history of the gay rights movement and the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
“It was a different time, the passions of people were far greater in a way. It was different, you had more stake in the time and in what was going on then,” said artist Suzanne Poli.
The Chair and the Maiden Art Gallery, on Christopher street just feet from the Stonewall Inn, displayed the work of Poli last week. Poli’s collection displayed pictures taken from the very riots themselves, and other events following including protests, pride parades and demonstrations that occurred over the last 40 years.
Poli’s vast collection of images, both filled with bright colors and in classic black and white, displayed a history and a legacy that the LGBT community celebrated globally on the exact date June 28. The collection portrayed images from the original riots in black and white, and progressed through time with colors and parades and was filled with celebration and exuberant color.
Marion Cooper, a friend of the artist, said after viewing the images, “I saw the pictures here and even though they’re stationary pictures, to me they look like the people are running and moving.”
A diversity of people filled the streets in each image, some carry banners with solemn faces, and some carry glitter with smiles of celebration. The range of emotions Poli captures is truly stunning. “They really capture the essence of what was happening in New York City,” said neighborhood resident Melinda Holm.
Poli enjoyed the display of her work and the reactions of viewers to it. “I felt like I had to make change, I was there to change things, change is what it was all about,” Poli said.
Owners of the gallery and curators of the exhibit David Zelikovsky and John Dabu were extremely excited to be hosting the show and displaying some of Poli’s work. “It’s amazing how she really has caught New York,” Dabu said. Zelikovsky was very excited to be hosting the special showing the week of the 40th anniversary of the riots and to look back on a different time period. “The idea is to always remember the roots and where its from and the progression,” Zelikovsky said.
Zelikovsky and Dabu founded the gallery two years ago outside of the Chelsea art gallery circuit and outside of the mold. Zelikovsky explained that the gallery has an open door policy, and that he will personally advise anyone who walks through their doors regardless of whether it turns into a shot or not. “The idea was to host emerging artists, and we’re kind of anti-establishment,” Zelikovsky said.
Zelikovsky spoke about the need for an exhibit to capture the original anger and rebellion of the Stonewall Riots to remind a community of its past. “Most of the corporations know it’s a celebration, but they don’t know why they’re celebrating, they don’t know where it comes from,” Zelikovsky said. “It came from fire and broken glasses, how many people you interview now would even have an idea, they think of it as a celebration and more of a pride thing than a history thing.”
Poli’s work will also be archived in the New York Public Library and will continue to remind and teach others of the history and inspire change in viewers. “They [the pictures] really are a snapshot of things that you may not have seen but you just think that you’re a part of it, you can always imagine that ‘I was there too,’” Dabu said.