SHE KNOWS WHO SHE IS: Solveig Nelson on the Life and Legacy of Thing

By Nelson, Solveig | Artforum International, February 2018 | Go to article overview

SHE KNOWS WHO SHE IS: Solveig Nelson on the Life and Legacy of Thing


Nelson, Solveig, Artforum International


IN 1991, at "SPEW: The Homographic Convergence"-a showcase of queer zines, T-shirts, videotapes, and performance that took place at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago--Robert Ford described Thing as a "black gay and lesbian underground arts journal and magazine kind of thing." The publication, which he founded in 1989 with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren, highlighted what Ford called a "black sensibility" in the underground. Published "capriciously"--typically every three or four months--it featured original interviews, writing, and photographs by artists, musicians, writers, activists, and performers from queer scenes across the US, including figures such as Vaginal Davis, RuPaul, Joan Jett Blakk, Lady Bunny, Willi Ninja, Dorian Corey, Essex Hemphill, Lyle Ashton Harris, and many others. "We knew for ourselves what a rich and important cultural thing gay black men have and share," Ford later told the writer Owen Keehnen. "We wanted to make a magazine that would be a way of documenting our existence and contribution to society. Our idea was not so much [to] radicalize or subvert the idea of magazines as to make one from our own point of view." This was a necessary intervention, Ford said at SPEW, because there was "so little of us in 'mainstream media.'"

Thing's title was in part a reference to self-organized, DIY culture, as in "do your own thing"; it sought in particular to build networks of "things" within and among underground cultures in Chicago and beyond. Ford described wanting to create alternative familial ties, inspired by the support he received from his parents and sister after he came out as gay. "As I look back on the projects which were my work," he once wrote, "they existed not only as magazines to inform the general public, but as structures to assemble a very special creative queer family." While such relations often took shape through the sharing of images in Thing itself, they are also apparent in a 1992 photograph taken during a brunch with filmmaker Marlon Riggs in Thing's offices. It shows Ford, sporting Harris's miss girl T-shirt (based on Harris's influential self-portrait series), posing warmly with Riggs and Thing's interracial, multigendered staff. That same day, Riggs had agreed to contribute to Thing--perhaps resulting in the moving piece printed in the Fall 1992 issue, titled "Letter to the Dead," where he disclosed his HIV-positive status.

Thing was an openly queer transformation of its predecessor, Think Ink, a black-and-white magazine Ford, Adkins, and Warren had launched in 1987 with the assistance of graphic designer Simone Bouyer. "Fashioned as a black arts paper with a gay sensibility, [Think Ink] was an ambitious zine which cost my entire tax refunds," Ford recalled. Conceptualizing thinking as a procedure of multiplying forms of identification and belonging, he proposed: "The voice of Think is loud & varied embracing cultures and countercultures of thinkers male/female/black/white/straight/ gay/etc. Think is to transcend labels & to express reactions, opinions, ideas." In another draft of the magazine's mission, which stressed the weight of visual images, he wrote, "Think is a record of how we think, how we look, who we are." Of course, for the publication's makers, thinking also involved an exploration of who was meant by this we.

The cover of Think Ink's "zero" issue featured artist Ken Hare styled (by Adkins) in a camp take on the 1970s television miniseries Roots. The declarative black-and-white image--whose caption, as in a high-fashion magazine, identified the jewelry worn ("African amber and railroad spike necklace courtesy of the Lucille Graham collection")--proclaimed both an appropriation and a broadening of the Black Arts Movement of the preceding generation in Chicago, into whose creative force and institution-building ethos the zine tapped, while treating its ambiguous relation to the mainstream as an asset. Inside was a piece on two artists associated with the experimental Chicago gallery-cafe Holsum Roc (run by Bouyer and Stephanie Coleman, who also later worked at Thing); an essay by Andre Halmon on "acid tracks" in house music; an interview with the fashion designer Isaia; and, as an important anchor to an issue thematizing multiple forms of origins, a lengthy conversation with artist Margaret Burroughs, who had in 1961 cofounded what later became the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

SHE KNOWS WHO SHE IS: Solveig Nelson on the Life and Legacy of Thing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.