National Anthem by Luke Gilford is the result of years of c documenting the unique subculture within the International Gay Rodeo Association (IGRA) – the organizing body for the LGBTQ+ cowboy and cowgirl communities in North America.
Gilford’s father was a member of The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association so he spent his youth around the rodeo, but it wasn’t until he discovered the IGRA that he was able to see himself as part of that community. His National Anthem work aims to recognize and bring to light thriving queer communities in rural areas around the United States, and the deep kinship therein.
Printed at a scale that is larger-than-life, the characters in National Anthem demand to be confronted, and in doing so, refuse the invisibility that neglect and dismissal too often cast upon them. In spending time with the members of the IGRA and their neighbors, Gilford found himself comforted by the unexpected open-mindedness he witnessed, which he has described as “the electric charge of belonging”. Through this exhibition, Gilford hopes to connect with members of the LGBTQIA+ community that have left their hometowns in search of a more welcoming environment, and build upon the communal love and care that is so evident in the city.
“One of the great powers of the queer rodeo is its ability to disrupt America’s tribal dichotomies that cannot contain who we really are—liberal versus conservative, urban versus rural, “coastal elite” versus “middle America”, Gilford notes.
“I’m honored to share this work on such a large scale in New York City and to celebrate the beauty of this community and what it represents. I’m looking forward to connecting with others who have come to the city from rural places, and to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to extend their experiences to include more nature and community in safe spaces.”
In addition to presenting these images in New York for the first time, SN37 has reprinted a limited edition run of 150 of Gilford’s popular 2020 National Anthem monograph, available for purchase at the gallery until supplies last. SN37 has made an intentional decision to donate the proceeds of each exhibition to the organization of the artists’ choosing; the proceeds from the sale of select work from Gilford’s show will be donated to the International Gay Rodeo Association. National Anthem will be on view from July 14 through August 28, 2022.