Uhauled: Love as Performance

by Darryan Miller

“Uhauled: Love as a Performance” will be a one-night pop up gallery at the Norfolk NEON Festival, that centers around queer love. The gallery will showcase multiple queer artists as each will have their own U-Haul truck to display their work in. The event aims to provide a safe space for queer women specifically, as the general social climate seems to lack them. This is the second year that curator Cat Baker, has worked with the NEON Festival to organize such an inclusive, interactive, and unique experience for all walks of life.

“Originally, this idea formed because in Norfolk, especially, there aren’t really any big celebratory spaces for queer women. And if there are, those spaces are quickly overrun by people who are straight identifying and also a lot of gay men take over those spaces.” Baker said.

Often times when we think of gay culture as how it’s portrayed in the media, we see the acceptable “party gay man” but there’s more to it than that. Queer women deserve a space too, that doesn’t oversexualize them or place them in a stereotypical box; one that’s free of pitting different identifying queer women against each other, instead highlighting the positivity and cultural awareness within a marginalized community.

 Three woman hug in the last days of Hershee Bar, one of the oldest lesbian bars on the East Coast. It closed in 2018 after 35+ years of operation in Norfolk.
Three woman hug in the last days of Hershee Bar, one of the oldest lesbian bars on the East Coast. It closed in 2018 after 35+ years of operation in Norfolk.

“Hershee Bar was the only queer woman designated space in Norfolk and it was shut down. And everywhere else in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, [spaces] are centered around gay men. It’s the same in DC and Richmond, so I feel like a lot of the gay culture is like ‘party gay men,’ and that is like the young culture of the gay community. I [felt like] this is a time and space where we [queer women] make this, we have complete control, this is about queer women, and we control who takes over that space. This just celebrates, highlights, and also very much normalizes, queer women.” Baker said.

This year, the event will house a whole new slew of artists from DC and Virginia as Baker wants to incorporate new ones every year. They include Faye Stein, Deep Pool, Aurele Gould, Koren Grace, Alexandria Jones, Nava Levenson, Marra Sherrier and Cat Baker herself.

“This year has quite an array, [of art experiences] with different types of art, such as three-dimensional works, writing, video installations and a lot of photography.” Said Baker, “There will be three-dimensional, large scale replications of a bathroom but everything is hand sewn. There’s an artist performing vocally, Koren Grace, a Norfolk artist/singer-songwriter that will have a set-up in her truck as kind of a makeshift stage.” Baker said.

When talking about her experience curating a show like Uhauled, Baker says event planning comes very easy for her. “Everything within the event is paid for, nothing comes out of the artists’ pockets, and MJ’s Tavern and The NEON District are sponsors. MJ’s Tavern made a donation to us so that we could actually afford the U-Hauls.” said Baker.

“On the day of [the event] its very hectic and crazy but we’re all very organized people. Setting up is very hands on and enjoyable for me and because I did it last year, I know what I need to do this year so it’s not as nerve-racking,” Baker said. “It’s really fun to have a prompt and to make art around the prompt and it’s also very interesting to see the [other artists, their process, and how they make art.]”

Housing the works of art in U-Hauls stems from a running joke in the queer community about moving in after the first date. “[The joke is that there’s a U-Haul Lesbian,] which means you bring your U-Haul truck on the first date, you move in immediately. So, [I thought] this is kind of like a funny idea to have it in U-Haul trucks, to be about queer women, but also this gallery can go anywhere that there’s a parking space. It’s very accessible, it can be done in cities, in more rural places, it can be done indoors, outdoors, anywhere that can hold a truck,” Baker said.

   Interactive excerpts from last year’s Uhauled
Interactive excerpts from last year’s Uhauled

Not only is Baker a curator but she’s also a mixed media artist and photographer. When asked how she promotes herself and others, Baker contributes a lot of it to networking. “Every single city has its own pocket of artists and I think I was lucky enough to stumble into that. I was invited to shows and to be in shows and a lot [of it is] in person, marketing yourself. It’s social media heavy – I have an art page and I’ll post my art with a lot of hashtags and that’s kind of how you get followers, and how you get strangers to talk to, to engage with you.” she said.

“There are a couple of people in Norfolk who are doing more gorilla canvassing with physical posters. A lot of it is Facebook Events, asking all my artists to share, being on Instagram and tagging [the city of] Norfolk, our sponsors, tagging other artists. Everyone is so involved with social media, people really do see it.” Baker said.

When asked what people should take away from the event, Baker said she hopes they recognize “the objectification that queer women do feel from other people and that just because we’re women, or just because we’re nonbinary, etc, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to sexualize us and it’s not okay to glorify [our] relationships, or ourselves as people.”

“UHauled Love as a Performance” will be held in the Slone Chiropractic Clinic parking lot, Friday October 18th. The event will start at 6 p.m. and will run until 11 p.m. This unique gallery provides inclusion through exclusion and there’s everything queer about that.


Minding the Curve with Mattie Hinkley

by Shannon Jay

Mattie Hinkley’s exaggerated and clothes-free style evolved throughout the years for a lot of reasons. It happened between shifts between schools or mediums and loneliness in cross-country celibacy or shifting power dynamics when she got back in the bedroom. Somewhere along the way, she stopped using reference materials for her characters and separating sex from any other bodily movement. Side-by-side skateboarders and surfers are featured with sixty-niners and suckers. She’ll be showing some work at her own table next week at NOICE, Norfolk’s Original Indie Comic Expo.


Seems like you’ve lived a lot of places on both coasts, how has each environment shaped your aesthetic?

I grew up in Virginia but went to furniture school in northern California, so I lived there for three years, and I’ve just returned to Virginia. Going to California was great, in a way, because I lived in a small rural town with no friends, so I just spent all my free time in my room drawing, and really figured out how I like to draw, what felt good. I had the opportunity to be very introspective. I was lonely and sad and experienced long periods of celibacy, but my art is better now.

Why is sex such a strong subject in your work and (especially considering the androgyny and queerness within many figures) what are you trying to say with this focus?

I don’t want to fabricate a false narrative here so I’ll be honest and say that, really, I’m just interested in drawing bodies and sex is something I think about so often that it makes its way into what my drawn bodies are doing. I also draw bodies skateboarding and walking around, but people don’t seem to care as much about that. So, if anything, I’m trying to say that sex doesn’t have to be any more important (or funny or dramatic or sinister) than anything else. Maybe sex is my still life, my bowl of fruit. As far as the form of the bodies, regarding their presentation as androgynous and queer, I suppose that’s directly reflective of how my own body feels — it’s the type of body I know best — and it feels uncomfortable (and boring) to draw them any other way.

How has drawing sexy pictures for 3+ years changed your relationship with the act itself (either internally or through people’s reactions & responses to your work)?

I don’t know that it has. Well, actually, at some point, after repeated uncomfortable (read: gross) responses from straight men about my work, I stopped drawing men in dominant positions, and that idea seeped into my personal sex life as well. So maybe it deepened my feminist resolve in the bedroom.

What came first, woodworking or illustration?

Illustration, for sure. I’ve been drawing since I was little; I went to SCAD at 18 intending to major in illustration (I quickly dropped out but that’s another story). Woodworking only came into my life 3 or 4 years ago.

How does each medium inform each other? What do you get out of each creatively?

Initially they were wholly unrelated, except maybe that I had confidence in accurately sketching furniture designs. I learned the fundamentals of woodworking and furniture making first so I was making traditional cabinets, tables, chairs. But as I’ve grown as a woodworker, I feel more confident in creating my own forms and shapes, so certainly my illustration style is more and more evident in my wood pieces. For me, woodworking is a technical practice, a stressful but rewarding learning experience, whereas illustration is calming, a release, an expression. Though that switches.

Both mediums are an exercise in shapes and curves. What’s your relationship to simple shapes and slick curves?

The way I draw and design is more intuitive than intentional, for sure. I wish all the time that I created differently, that my lines were wobblier, that my shapes were wonkier, and I work toward that, but when I sit down to draw or design, what naturally comes out is usually simple and clean. What can you do.

Your art from a few years ago was more realistic and defined, how did you get to more exaggerated and ambiguous characters?

I stopped using reference material. I was doodling in a sketchbook on a plane, this was winter of 2016, and I started drawing figures without trying to make them accurate, messing with their proportions, and it immediately felt so much better, more freeing, more honestly expressive. Maybe that’s corny to say. I don’t know. But I had never realized how constricted I felt by drawing realistically until I stopped, then I never wanted to start again.

What were the subjects of some of your earliest pieces? In my “research” (creeping) I stumbled upon what I’m assuming is your MySpace full of fantastical animals – I’d love to explore that connection to your current human focus.

Oh gosh, I’m a bit embarrassed. Yeah, those are mine; I used to draw animals all the time, and would give them human traits or body parts, a human head with a pig body or something. Maybe it was a young vegan’s crusade to get people to see the connection between us, and I just exhausted that proselytizing part of myself.

how is your work different in the context of comics and zines?

I’ve started a hundred comics but never finished them. I would make a few panels then get stressed and stop. I’m not confident in my storytelling. I feel comfortable with one-liners or quick back-and-forths, but not long narratives. On top of that, I like the ambiguity of my characters: their thoughts and actions left vague for the viewer to interpret. So the comic I’ve been working on for this expo doesn’t really have dialogue (or at least, doesn’t have text bubbles). But I’ll also have a woodworking how-to zine there which is chock-full of text.

What’s your “day job” if not woodworking/arting full-time & how do you find work/life balance?

Thankfully I do sell art and woodwork regularly, but I also work at a coffee shop and as a dogsitter, and I’ve been lucky enough to receive a lot of scholarships and grants while in school. It’s so hard to find balance, and I don’t know that I do. I stay up late and wake up early. I drink a lot of coffee. I eat microwaveable meals. I neglect self-care and over-commit to art projects then bemoan them when the deadline approaches. I wish I were more productive but life is exhausting.

You’re finishing up a degree, although you’ve been to other schools will this be your first Bachelor’s? What do you plan to do after school? (Every student’s most dreaded question)

Yeah, so, I’m at VCU in the Craft + Material Studies department, and hopefully will finish in May 2020 with a BFA. Then I’ll apply to every residency and fellowship I can get my hands on (/afford). Then after a couple years, my plan is to seek out graduate programs for Furniture Design and try to earn a Master’s degree so that I can teach. Or if I can swing a permanent teaching position with only a Bachelor’s, do that. So wood teacher by day, illustrator by night, human being on the weekends.


check out mattie’s prints, zines & comics this Saturday, Feb 2nd, at NOICE, norfolk’s original indie comic expo