Rusty Design Co.

From afar the lit letters are visible, but the message unclear. The viewer must approach the sign in order to discern the full word. The unlit letters make up the latter half of the LGBTQIA acronym — Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual — representing the sexual and gender identities whose oppression has been overshadowed by the mainstream gay rights movement. This piece is a critique of the prioritization of same-sex marriage legalization as a vehicle to liberation, which has systematically overlooked the needs of the most disenfranchised members of the LGBTQIA community, and further marginalized individuals whose identities and lived experiences do not conform to normative assumptions about sexuality and gender.

The incompleteness of the semi-lit word is meant to provoke feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment. It asks viewers to look more closely at the injustices faced by LGBTQIA people, notice which voices are underrepresented in conversations concerning their lives, and question the means by which social equality is achieved.

The medium of neon was chosen for its clear connection to the idea of visibility. It also pays homage to Gran Fury, a collective of artists and activists associated with Act Up that appropriated the aesthetics of advertising and consumerism, including neon signage, to fight for health care access during the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s–90s. It specifically references the famed SILENCE = DEATH (1987) neon sign.

Rusty Cook