FeaturesQueer in Galveston

Imaginative Installations

Galveston Artist Residency spotlights the work of nonbinary artists Ian Gerson and Everest Pipkin this month.

Ian Gerson (l) and Everest Pipkin (courtesy photos)

Every year, Galveston Artist Residency (GAR) awards three individuals 24/7 access to an art studio, a nearby apartment, and a monthly stipend of $1,000 from October through July. 

“My primary hope for the residency is that by supporting creativity for its own sake, we create an environment that fosters new ways of looking at the world and new ways of problem solving,” says GAR Director Eric Schnell. 

For the 2020–2021 residency year, GAR selected nonbinary artists Ian Gerson and Everest Pipkin to participate in the program. Their artwork will be on view in the gallery through July 17. GAR Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Schnell says Gerson was selected for many reasons. Schnell explains, “Ian’s work stood out to the selection panel as an interesting mix of sculptural environment combining with an exploration of personal history, past, present, and future.” 

Born in Houston, Gerson, a transgender and queer multidisciplinary artist who uses he/him and they/them pronouns, transports audiences to other worlds with large-scale installations, drawings, collages, paintings, and more. 

“In my practice, I create worlds. It’s been an element of escape to try to create from my imagination, to find a place for myself,” Gerson says. 

Return by Ian Gerson

A 2015 site-specific installation titled Future Floor captures their mission as an artist. In a New York artist-run space, they created an otherworldly vessel with wood, cardboard, acrylic, poster paper, black lights, water, and found beach plastics. During the exhibition, visitors got to enter a 10-foot-tall spacecraft, explore a control room made of bright neon lights, and envision another realm.

“I feel like we are so limited in what we think is possible,” Gerson says. “This idea of seeing and knowing that more possibilities exist, that really resonates with my own experience as coming to understand myself as trans [and] as queer.”

The 36-year-old has a bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s degree in sculpture and extended media from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Gerson applied for the Galveston program to reconnect with Texas, a region they hadn’t lived in for over a decade. As part of their fellowship, they walked around the Galveston coastline at low tide to gather materials, which they used in their installation titled Return. The piece represents the parallels between Texas and Gerson’s self-journey. 

“I’ve been thinking a lot about a place that constantly gets hit by hurricanes and needs to rebuild. I’ve also been thinking how that could parallel my own journey of rebuilding myself and my personal identity.”

Gerson wants to create another small site-specific installation with materials found in Galveston. They hope the creation inspires audiences to see potential in every material they come across—even the flotsam and jetsam found on the beaches.

They will also organize a self-guided tour of Galveston by creating a map leading participants to several under-recognized destinations that are significant to either Gerson or other Galvestonians. The tour will include a phone number people can call to learn more about each destination.  

“I want to bring to the surface or make people more aware of history that is intentionally not told,” Gerson says. “I’m interested in African American history and gay, queer stories in Galveston.”

Like Gerson, Pipkin, a drawing and software artist who uses they/them pronouns, has spent their fellowship creating several pieces. They are currently working on a game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Their game will highlight how the “ends of the world” is happening all the time, rather than being caused by a singular event. Pipkin believes these ongoing events can unite communities, instead of fueling the individualistic fantasies often found in movies and video games.

“I have to believe, going forward, that the end of the world isn’t a total loss—that when you have devastation, a community comes together with care and builds something meaningful,” Pipkin explains. “It has been very useful for me to be in a community like Galveston that has gone through that cycle. It is a hopeful vision of what the end of the world will look like.”

Everest Pipkin’s Object 1 for Corsicana Sky

As part of their GAR fellowship, Pipkin also crafted several pieces about landscapes and architectures through which information and people pass. 

“Everest’s work stood out as an artist who truly engages with new technology in inventive and necessary ways,” says Schnell.

For the gallery, Pipkin created Object 1 for Corsicana Sky, one of five small sculptures capable of tracking airplanes overhead and translating encoded airplane radio transmissions into sound and text in real time. 

They also created Open Captions for a Translucent Building, an endless, generative poem commissioned for St. Göran’s Gymnasium in Stockholm, Sweden. The software captures the Swedish building’s history and uses. The artwork also highlights how many lives can intersect in one structure.

Originally from Bee Cave, Texas, Pipkin received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master of fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University. The 30-year-old decided to pursue a studio practice because the medium allowed them to work and approach research through aesthetic, scientific, technical, or emotional lenses.

“It felt like a place that could include scientific practices as well as my own political, personal, and aesthetic convictions,” Pipkin says. 

Although Pipkin works with many disciplines such as games, drawing, and writing, their work shares a common interest: data, ranging from information found on Wikipedia to conversations with a neighbor about the types of roses they grow. 

Their work deals with themes of communication, community, and information. They create to transform digital spaces into sites where people can come together and build, whether that is in corporate networks or on community-built platforms.

While Pipkin’s work covers topics such as mass surveillance and discriminatory algorithms, they believe that their art should not be used as a substitute for activism, but rather as one repository of research and experience among many.

“Looking at or experiencing artwork is not the same as getting involved in your community or being there for your neighbors,” they explain. 

Pipkin encourages people to view the exhibition in person for an unforgettable experience. 

“I cannot overestimate how special a space GAR is, and how rare it is for something like this to exist. It is a world-class institution,” Pipkin says. “It is more than worthy of keeping in your sights.”

To learn more about the Galveston Artist Residency, visit galvestonartistresidency.org. Follow Ian Gerson on Instagram at instagram.com/ianmilesgerson and Everest Pipkin at instagram.com/everestpipkin.

This article appears in the July 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She works as a College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.
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