The Art of the Talking Body, The Art of Martin Navejas

Martin Navejas, Photo: John M. Livelsberger

(Hammond, IN) With an infectious smile Martin Navejas greeted us at the entrance of the White Ripple Gallery in Hammond. This would be Martin’s second solo exhibition and if he was nervous you could not tell. We moved slowly up a flight of stairs passing the art work of what I assumed were other artists to be featured at the gallery. We arrived to a huge room at the top of the stairs and along the walls the work of the 27 year old artist hung.

I walked around the room taking in his work, most were nudes with both men and woman. What struck me about Martin’s work was not just the level of nakedness the models have but where the pictures were actually taken. To Martin the locations where he takes the pictures are just as important as the models and in some of his work it’s almost as if the model is secondary and the location and is the main subject, like the abandoned church confessional that was used in one of his pieces.

The White Ripple Gallery & Co. Photo: Facebook

Born and raised in Hammond Martin Navejas has been taking pictures since he was a teenager, saving his allowance to buy disposable cameras and pay for film developing. Inspired by other photographers pictures of abandoned buildings, Martin started ditching school and ‘breaking into’ empty and abandoned buildings in his hometown and in other locations to get his own pictures. After awhile accompanied by his friend Tia he would put her into his early work, then a natural progression to other models as his work evolved. “I’ve always wanted to tell stories, but I’m not a good writer or speaker, so I thought I could do it through my photography.” When asked what inspired him I was surprised when he said music and poetry. “You would never think that inspiration comes from a song that I hear but in my head it works.” Indeed it does as Martin puts a visual to what he hears. Martin describes striping the model down to their bare essentials just like the abandoned locations that he uses as a backdrop. Referring to his body of work, “There’s a story you can make up in your head.”

When I asked Martin what he says to a person that cannot differentiate or compares his works of art to pornography he had this to say. “I feel like maybe this is just me, but I feel if you take away the clothes, the mask, if you will, essentially I think working with the naked body, they (the model) are more vulnerable. It’s more genuine, it’s more raw.” Using physical structures that have been abandoned by man and taken over by nature seems to make the body of his work genuine for both location and model, naked bones bare. His work can come of as sad and lonely but almost romantic and beautiful at the same time.

Artwork by Martin Navejas: Photo by John M. Livelsberger

Martin Navejas is an upcoming young gay artist that is putting his mark on art and culture in Northwest Indiana with his thought provoking and provocative work.

You can experience the work of Martin Navejas starting June 10th at the White Ripple Gallery & Co. located at 6725 Kennedy Ave. Hammond, IN 46323.

 

 

 

2:02 a.m.

On June 12, 2016 at 2:02 a.m. we lost our safe space. 49 beautiful people were gunned down at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As we all know Pulse was a gay club and the gunman a radical Islamic terrorist who as some reports  will confirm was not as ease with his sexuality. So in the name in Islam and shame 49 innocent people had to die in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 by a single gunman.

On this day a year ago I was sitting at this same desk 1000 miles away. We had nothing but the news on and throughout the day the body count kept rising. Watching this unfold in real time was chilling. Wasn’t it June? Wasn’t it Pride month. Who would do this?

The shooter, who I refuse to name, in this op-ed claimed allegiance to ISIS, yet there are reports that he was a closeted gay man who was angry that he may have been unwittingly exposed to HIV. The reports came from someone who dated him and others who had witnessed him out at Pulse. It was also reported that he was known for being on Grindr and other ‘hook up’ apps. His first wife claimed that he was gay and struggled with his sexuality. He witnessed a gay couple kiss in public and was enraged because his young son witnessed an act of affection by two men. The F.B.I. could find no evidence that he used gay dating apps or was a closeted gay man.

I think of Pulse frequently. I think that could have been me or any one of my friends. It could have happened at any bar at any Pride event over the years that we attended in Boystown. The people who where at Pulse a year ago were there to dance, meet that person they had been talking to on line or go on a date. Maybe some of them had a bad week and just wanted blow off a little steam. The victims had plans afterward. Maybe go out to breakfast before going home or sleeping until one o’clock in the afternoon cradled in the arms of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they had to work that afternoon or had plans to hit the beach. Those plans stopped mattering at 2:02 a.m. when a terrorist born in this country started killing for reasons that in the end are only known to him and all that’s left are the last moments of the victims frozen in time forever.

I pray that this doesn’t ever happen again to any community marginalized or otherwise. The man who did this was a coward and a sick coward at that. From the reports I’ve read and from witnesses who knew him the shooter was angry. He didn’t not like black people, gays, or Jews and his anger and hatred twisted his soul. So today we remember the victims of PULSE, we pray and think of their families. We also think of the survivors especially those who are wrestling with survivor’s guilt. Brandon Wolf went to Pulse that night with his two best friends. They were killed by the gunman and Brandon who survived the assault without a scratch is left plagued with nightmares and survivors guilt. Proving that pain isn’t only skin deep. ‘What Survival Means’-Brandon Wolf.

To the victims and survivors we remember you, people like me who you do not know are today celebrating your lives and in the month of June we will celebrate PRIDE in your name.

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

 

 

Being Proud

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

As we enter another Pride Month in June, I stop to reflect on what pride, or more correctly, being proud means to me.

In younger days, I was always proud of stuff. I would proudly show off my Lego building skills to my mom. I felt the pride of winning a 1st Place ribbon at a track meet in grade school event though I was not a fast runner (I benefit of being on a relay team with other fast kids). I was proud to tell people I was from The Region even though they called us “Region Rats”. I always stood proudly and supported my sports teams, my schools and my friends. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had never felt very proud of me.

As I was limping my way through life, feeling very confused, frustrated and lost, I was very much assured that my life was going to end in a moment of complete surrender to these feelings. I wasn’t living because I was proud to be alive. I was living because I was still breathing. This changed when I encountered a word that seemed at the time to be a gateway to self discovery. Late in 1998, I ran smack dab into the word transgender. A word I had been seeking to enter my life for so long. I do recall standing up and raising my arm and saying “I am transgender”.

Looking back I could in no way have predicted where I would be today. I have been described as “one of the most out and proud trans people” someone knew. I do live a very authentic and proud life now. I did have to overcome a big obstacle to get to this place. From the time that I stood up and raised my arm and for the 7 years that followed I studied and researched everything about being transgender. I became very astute on most things related to the trans community. I thought this was going to be enough to carry me into the future. I began to prepare for an eventual transition. Everything seemed to be falling into place, yet, I felt there was a void. There was something I was forgetting. It was bothering me. What could it be?

Meghan Buell, Photo: Facebook

I used to “dress up” and go out when it was convenient for me to get out. This was a very comfortable part-time existence. I was not under any pressure or constraint to be anything other than what I wanted to be at any point of time. I thought this was just my situation given still being mostly in the closet. I kept using job, family or money as the reason I didn’t take my journey any further. Yet, I was getting frustrated that things were not moving along the planned timeline. And then it hit me. My excuses for not advancing forward were not at all related to job, family or money but because I hadn’t really come out to MYSELF and, thus, was not really proud of being ME. All my life I had been proud of my accomplishments but never of me. Once I called my own bluff and finally stood up and said “I AM TRANSGENDER. HEAR ME ROAR” I was able to stop spinning my wheels, gain traction and move forward toward the goal. It took me being proud of being me to open up the pathway to self-acceptance. I stand here today, celebrating Pride Month, truly proud.

POZiversary, Yeah It’s a Thing

Daniel Ashley Williams, Photo: Facebook

POZiversary is the act of celebrating the anniversary of one’s HIV diagnosis. Despite all the progress that has been made in the treatment of HIV and despite the fact that HIV is completely manageable for most people, receiving a positive diagnosis remains a challenge. HIV is not the death sentence it once was in the 80’s and 90’s but the sigma is still there and those newly diagnosed can get scared and that’s okay. Still, why would anyone want to celebrate or even acknowledge the day that they received a positive diagnoses?

It’s been 9 years since I found out that I was HIV Positive. When I found out I was positive there were so many fears. There was the fear of telling my boyfriend, there was the fear of the stigma of HIV/AIDS and there was the fear of the unknown. Later on after telling my then boyfriend about my diagnosis he was tested. We found out that his CD4 counts were lower and that he had HIV longer than me and in fact infected me. I was lulled into a false sense of security because we were in a monogamous relationship.

When I was infected in college all I knew about HIV/AIDS or thought I knew was that it can be transmitted sexually and that gay men were at a higher risk for infection. It’s a common misconception that gay men in relationships are at less risk of HIV and they tend to get tested less frequently then single gay men. There is also a high frequency of gay men in relationships or with their main sexual partner(s) that do not use condoms.

HIV can be transmitted between sexual partners and if condoms are not used there maybe a false sense of security. It’s assumed that everyone in the relationship or the sexual encounter knows his own HIV status and everyone should know their HIV status whether they are in a relationship or not. I recommend getting tested every three months.

After a positive diagnosis the health department will show up at your door and it can be a very scary thing to have a person from the government come knocking on your door asking a great many personal questions that you may not feel like anwsering. I mean who really wants to talk with complete strangers about their sex life? “How many sex partners have you had?” “How many times have you been tested for HIV and when was it?” “Do you have a phone number for any of the people you have had sex with?” It’s the Health Departments job to contact the people that have had sexual contact with a person that is HIV positive and it’s their job to get those people tested, but the health department will not disclose how they received that contact information. This is so you keep your privacy and there is no telling how someone may react so it keeps you safe as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated Lifetime Risk of HIV Diagnosis in Indiana is 1 in 183. Overall, an American has a 1 in 99 chance of being diagnosed with HIV at some point in his or her life. But that lifetime risk is greater for people living in the South than in other regions of the country. Linking people to care within 3 months after an HIV diagnosis improves their health and reduces the risk of transmission. In 2014, the majority of states with the lowest levels of linkage to care were in the South. According to the CDC in 2015, 39,513 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the United States. More than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and about 1 in 8 don’t know it. Make the informed decisions about your health and get tested.

I’m not proud to be HIV positive but I’m proud that I can be open about my status and stand up to the faces of adversity. There are many reasons why a person cannot be open about their status, yet I am one of those people who can and that is why I celebrate my “POZiversary.” It’s like celebrating LGBT PRIDE every year. You are not only celebrating who you are you are celebrating your life and the lives of the people in your community, you are also educating and living by example. You are showing someone else the way out of darkness and ignorance you are shining the light on misconception and sigma. You are showing people who might be afraid, whether they are afraid of their sexuality or their HIV status that there is still light and life at the end of the tunnel, least that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to educate and maybe if I do it right I can give that young kid in college who was just like me, who just got told that he was HIV positive hope, maybe I can let them know that it will be okay. Life will be different but it will be okay. So that’s why I celebrate my POZiversary.

Matthew 25 AIDS Services, INC. is a non-profit healthcare clinic that specializes in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. They are only one of two comprehensive HIV/AIDS Service clinics in Southern Indiana and Western Kentucky. 

 

They Can Turn Off the Lights but They Can’t Turn Off Our PRIDE

It’s June and it’s Gay PRIDE month and more then ever we need our PRIDE. For the first time in eight years there will be no PRIDE celebrations in the White House, don’t expect the people’s house to be lit up in rainbow colors or Vice President Mike Pence to be running the halls carrying a PRIDE Flag the way former Vice President Joe Biden did. The only things that are running in The White House this year are the PRIDE Colors, running like they were hit with bleach spray and all we are left with is bland and angry white. Transgender protections have been rolled back. HIV/AIDS funding is being cut. Violence and harassment of all marginalized communities is on the rise. Even on a local level I experienced a disrespect from my employer in regards to my sexuality and my marriage. That disrespect from someone I trusted led me to leave my job, a final straw that not just broke the camels back but left him paralyzed and angry.

This blog was originally going to be the story of what happened to me and what led up to me leaving the employ of a well known local attorney. After two weeks of writer’s bloc and apathy, after two weeks of not knowing what to do with my newly unemployed self and not knowing where to start I’m continuing with the work I’m most proud of, this web-site and our own LGBT Community right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana.   “The Beacon” and our sister page OUT in Michigan City & NWIN on Facebook have been a little lite on content these last few weeks, for that I am sorry, I was licking my wounds so to speak. I had put my all into a job and a boss that who was so disorganized, so socially awkward that I thought I could “fix” him. I just thought that maybe he didn’t have the right kind of help in the past, maybe wasn’t the right kind of help. Who knows? I do know this, there are just some things that can’t be fixed. The end came when he not only insulted me, a proud gay man but worse he insulted the integrity of my marriage and made light of my husband.

So I’m done moping, I’m done morning for a job I liked but the baggage that came with it made it not even worth it, especially at the end. It’s PRIDE month and it’s time for us to shout, fight, and let Northwest Indiana, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion and the nation, especially the Trump administration know that we are still here.

President Trump can keep the colored lights turned off, he can refuse to acknowledge PRIDE month. He can refuse to issue the LGBT PRIDE proclamations that have been issued in the month of June for the last eight years, and he can cow tow to Mike Pence and the religious right all we wants but WE ARE STILL HERE. OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD and WE WILL BE RESPECTED and WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED and WE WILL RISE again and again so long as our lives, our marriages, and our families are being disrespected by an administration that lives in darkness and lies. I encourage you all to go to PRIDE events. Little ones, big ones. Hold them in your back yard or your living room. Invite friends over. Go to the PRIDE events in the park or in the streets of Chicago or Indianapolis. BE PROUD and BE LOUD because the fight is not over and it’s not going to be over until we say it is.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this June 1, 2017 Gay PRIDE month. Be Proud.