Chad Jacobs, In Bloom, 2020 in Don't Ask, Do Tell
Chad Jacobs, In Bloom, 2020

Life is about using the whole box of crayons.

Ru Paul

Pride Month is coming to a close, and I didn’t want to let the month slip by without sharing my reflections on Don’t Ask, Do Tell at the Mize gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida. I think we can all agree that so far 2020 has been…well, special…and not in a good way. The Pride Parade in St. Pete was canceled this year, and while that made all the sense in the world, it was still a bummer. Nevertheless, Chad Mize and Kurt Piazza brought together a thought-provoking Pride show at Mize.

In curating the show, Mize and Piazza did not ask the artists to work within a specific theme, only to tell their own truths. The result: art that was both personal and political; art that broadly referenced American culture, as well as art specific to themes generally associated with the gay culture. This approach was telling in its own way, demonstrating that the LGBTQI+ experience in 2020 is far monolithic, of course, and naturally, each artist expressed a unique perspective.

This show has been reviewed in-depth so I wanted to share a personal take on the pieces that inspired me the most. Given my current frame of mind, I was drawn to DADT’s work that employed the joyful rainbow flag motif to express charmingly quirky personalities.

For example, I loved In Bloom. Chad Jacobs, a local actor-illustrator, created this self-portrait of himself surrounded by retro-awsome flowers in a rainbow of colors.

Jay Hoff, Tell, 2020, Don't Ask, Do Tell
Jay Hoff, Tell, 2020

On the other hand, Jeff Hoff, a high school teacher locally known for large-scale lego replicas of Star Wars sets and lego-inspired murals, shared his inner geek by creating a rainbow piece of “legos on legos” that spelled out “Tell.”

Chad Mize, Tell, 2020 in Don't Ask Do Tell
Chad Mize, Do Tell, 2020

But Hoff wasn’t the only artist inspired by the challenge of “Do Tell.” Co-curator Chad Mize confessed that lips are a favorite motif and created a gorgeous glitter and resin wood sculpture that brought in the rainbow palette.

Justin Sears, Rainbow Chain Mini, 2020
Justin Sears, Rainbow Chain Mini, 2020

Finally, Justin Sears had a highly graphic approach to the rainbow theme with his Rainbow Chain Mini, a wonderfully clever design that playfully spells out “Yo” again and again. Pride Month 2020 may be officially over, but there is still time to check out Don’t Ask, Do Tell in person, and an online.

Don’t Ask. Do Tell.
June 19-July 5 (Online)

Gallery Hours Saturday 11 am -7 pm
MIZE Gallery
689 Dr. MLK Jr. St. N., St. Petersburg.

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