This Art Book Shows Us the Beauty of New York's Queer Community
'Our Light Through Darkness' honors New York's queer community.
Impulse Group New York and photographer/filmmaker LaQuann Dawson have collaborated to present Our Light Through Darkness, a "love letter to the intricate experiences of New York City's vibrant queer community."
This anthology of photography, essays, erotica, illustrations, and poetry from queer artists hopes to be a healing force in such a heavy time. "2020 has been a year of much uncertainty and dismay," said Dey Armbrister, Impulse Group New York’s director of advocacy, in a statement. "We’ve witnessed thousands of lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless Black lives — including those within our LGBTQIA+ community — being taken due to police brutality and systemic racism, and the fall of our economy, with millions struggling to keep afloat after business closures and job losses. In the spirit of our year’s theme of 'transparency," we challenged the community to exude authenticity through owning one’s truths, unique qualities, and identities. Our Light Through Darkness personifies these truths as being a form of resistance through even the darkest hour. This is a visual manifesto for queer liberation, acceptance, and infinite visibility. This is our love letter to you."
In 2021, Impulse Group New York aims to raise $10,000 of charitable donations to benefit non-profit community partners, Destination Tomorrow and GLITS, inc. A $35 donation earns a copy of Our Light Through Darkness, which will ship in February 2021.
PRIDE had a chat with Dawson, curator of the book, who opens up about their inspirations, community, and healing through art.
Lee Gumbs, Chris McCarthy, Brandon O'Neal, Jamal Douglas, Jesse Johnson, Tyquan Christie
What inspired this collection of art?
"The selection of this collection of art was inspired by love. As Derrick Sabater, Impulse Group NYC’s director of marketing puts it: this book is our love letter to NYC’s queer community. The primary goal in collecting these works was to get artists and community members who we love and admire to build something together that we can be proud of. Something we can look back at later and share with the world. I built a mood board full of earthy tones, brown skin, and bare asses. I knew what I wanted this book to look like before we started to curate. I wanted to make sure this collection was not of high fashion, I wanted it to be raw and full of skin. I wanted our eyes open so it felt like we were caught being unbothered, queer and in love with ourselves."
Talk about the title of the book.
"Our Light Through Darkness is a title Dey Armbrister, Impulse Group NYC’s director of advocacy, came up with. The idea is that while we do have dark moments, pain and fear throughout our lives, our light will still shine through. Perseverance, kindness, beauty, talent, and intellect will still shine through. We each have such amazing stories as a group and as individuals that begin in the dark and find their way to the light. This book is documentation of many such stories and it lives as proof and a reminder that we cannot be dimmed. Not by homophobia, not by racism, and not by a pandemic."
Why is it important to you to center Black and Brown people in your work?
"I am Black! My daddy is Black, my mother is Brown and this is where I learned love. All 8 of my siblings are Black. My grandmother is Black. My best friends, my roommates and my idols are Black and Brown people too. These are the people who I want to love on, who I have always loved on, and who I want to be surrounded by. Historically, these are the people who have loved me back and still do. I see beauty in Black and Brown people and I want to keep seeing it and I want Black and Brown people to see themselves as beautiful people in the spotlight. Shining and full of glory. It is my life’s wish to protect and to celebrate Black and Brown people and to remind us that we exist and we are beautiful. I center Black and Brown people in my work because who else? Who else would stand in the center?"
LaQuann Dawson, Nolan Tesis, Jor El Riddick
What does it mean for you to partner with the other artists to create this book, as well as Impulse Group New York?
"It means the world, honestly. Collaboration is not the easiest thing to do, but when we do collaborate, the results can be so beautiful. To see what a group of people who have different experiences, backgrounds, resources, and perspectives can put together is mindblowing. I’ve spent much of my life alone and doing things alone and I know I have years to come where that will still be, but I do not wish to walk through these doors alone. I know that I do not have to. To be able to share this space and any other spaces I can with people from my community and beyond is a blessing. Togetherness is so important to our survival, our wellness, and our longevity. I am so thankful to Impulse Group NYC for bringing me onto such a project and allowing me to challenge them and to challenge myself in building this space.
Impulse Group NYC is a non-profit sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The group was formed to engage, support, and connect gay men throughout New York City and New Jersey. My wish is that with Our Light Through Darkness we were able to reach our community in a meaningful way."
Sailey Williams, Milan Garcon, Mirmad Garcon
What's the story behind this image?
"So there’s this picture of Dey Armbrister, Impulse’s director of advocacy, in the book. He’s in motion with legs from here to there. He’s twirling around a silver pole and he’s happy. Dey Armbrister is a Black man living with HIV who found healing and bliss through pole dancing. We wanted to capture him in this space to give life to that story. Dey showed up to Holyrad Studio in Brooklyn to meet me. Pole in hand, we started to set up for the shoot. Dey’s pole wouldn’t reach the ceiling so we had to improvise. We looked around for something to give us a boost, we tried like 8 different props. I really didn’t want to fake this experience so we had to figure something out. Eventually, I found a mirrored platform in the back room and emptied a metal trash can. We grabbed a ladder and pressure attached the trash can to the ceiling. We propped the pole between these two and tested it out. It passed the weight and pressure tests and we had a wonderful shoot. This was my first time seeing someone up-close work a pole in such a way. I was anxious as hell when the pole wouldn’t touch, but we made it work like the resourceful kings we are."
LaQuann Dawson, Dey Armbrister
Anything you want to personally plug?
"I urge you all to please order the book. 100 percent of the book’s proceeds will go to Destination Tomorrow and G.L.I.T.S. Inc., two Black and Brown run LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations whose mission is to allow LGBTQ+ folks access to aid, resources, community, and more. Please visit ourlightthroughdarkness.com to learn more about them and donate if you can. Please make yourself aware of the artists involved with this book and hire them for your projects. Pay them their full rates, order a few prints and pass their name along. Follow myself and Impulse for more projects like these and just to show love. If you order the book please reach out and show love. We really need it."
LaQuann Dawson, Eric Oliver
LaQuann Dawson, Danny Gucci, Matthew Dempsey, George Domenick