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Queer Art Workers Reflect: Dana Suleymanova Is Rooting for More Queer Arts Educators

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Artist Dana Suleymanova with her work “Venus” (2020), foam, gripper, polyurethane rubber, ceramic, epoxy dough (all images courtesy Dana Suleymanova)

The month of June is a time to celebrate LGBTQ communities. It’s a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture of the queer community, as well as more recent advances made in the realm of civil liberties. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many queer individuals are navigating greater risks to their health, safety, and livelihoods.

Cognizant of the need to stay connected and elevate queer voices amid uncertainty, Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one queer art worker per day on our website and asking them to reflect on what this time means to them.

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What’s your name?

Dana Suleymanova

Where are you based currently? 

Philadelphia, PA

Describe who you are and what you do.

I am a sculptor, video, and performance artist who recently moved to Philadelphia from Houston. I work primarily with foam, rubber, paper, ceramics, and other fiber-related materials in my sculpture practice and oftentimes create my own props and costumes for campy and humorous performance and video works. Additionally, I am an arts educator who teaches stop motion and ceramics to kids of various ages. I also really enjoy organizing exhibitions and programming events, however I haven’t gotten much of a chance to do that as of late since I am still acclimating into the Philly art scene

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Dana Suleymanova, from Dear Cupid (2019), performance, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, 2019

Tell us about your greatest achievement or something you’ve done lately that you’re proud of.

My greatest achievement thus far would have to be getting chosen to perform at Love Park for Philly’s FringeArts Festival this past year. It was my first time doing an outdoor public performance and my first time receiving a grant to perform a piece. It helped give me confidence seeing that people are interested in my performance work and that I could actually be compensated for my performance labor.

Favorite ways to celebrate your queerness and community?

I celebrate my queerness by dressing queer and experimenting with my clothes/ appearance. In terms of celebrating my community, I just enjoy showing up to my friends’ events, performances, and shows. I also promote my queer friends’ endeavors on social media. I think those things can go a long way.

What’s been top of mind for you lately?

Besides the impending doom feelings I’ve just been having a lot of gratitude. Very grateful for my health and the wellbeing of my close friends and family. But also trying to make the most of the slow pace that life is moving at and gain some new skills and new ideas.

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An artwork by Dana Suleymanova

Talk to us about your immediate queer community/support systems. (Feel free to shout out other folks or organizations you think are doing important work.)

I’m not sure I really have a queer community that supports me as much as the Texas art community that I still receive a lot of support from. I love the artists and organizers that I met living in Houston and Austin and I still keep in contact with many of them and look to them for support. I’m still in the process of meeting artists and fellow queers in Philly and I hope to start working towards building that community when I can be a little less distant from them.

How are you celebrating Pride Month this time around?

I haven’t thought much about that with everything else happening — hopefully educating myself more on the queer artists that came before me and maybe a little dancing.

Are there ways you think queer artists and art workers could be better supported?

Money is always cool. I think certain institutions have worked towards supporting marginalized communities more than others so it would be nice to see more widespread attempts at showing art from a variety of different perspectives. It would be nice to see exhibitions of queer artists have more nuance. I feel like there is a tendency to lump queer art into survey shows of queerness but I think it would be interesting to see shows with some more specificity. I also think it is important to have queer educators as well that help build the confidence of the young queer artists that are going to come after us.

DanaS4 Dana Suleymanova
An artwork by Dana Suleymanova

In the communities that you’re part of, what are you hoping to see shift in the future?

It would be nice to move towards having more compassion in all communities. Even though I think we’ve come a long way in terms of recognizing and celebrating differences within the queer community, I believe we can still have more empathy and understanding for one another. I also think that queer spaces are still very white-male-centered and it would be refreshing to move towards more inclusive spaces that welcome all the folks on the LGBTQ spectrum.

What’s the first thing you’re planning to do when it feels safer to physically gather again?

Hug some friends.

Enjoying this series? Check out other entries here

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