Artist Dennis Greenwell makes a statement about LGBTQ youth and the everyday struggles the community is forced to face in his exhibit “Tragic Disclosures.”
Greenwell graduated from ETSU in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and later with a master’s in art education. He now teaches high school art near Nashville, Tennessee.
He became interested in the issue a few years ago when he started hearing about many suicides among LGBTQ youth. When he began his research on the topic he found quotes and letters left behind from teenagers, most often their last words.
“I really started noticing that they would post some of their writings, some of the last things that they wrote, and they were heartbreaking,” Greenwell said.
He grew to understand the treatment of LGBTQ youth and decided to take action. Through his art, he hopes to convey to audiences the negative action some people take against LGBTQ youth and the impact it has on them.
“I see it as a crisis,” Greenwell said. “I want viewers to think about what’s happening now and what we can do to change them.”
His goal is for people to be able to come together to make it easier for kids in these situations. Organizations that have these objectives receive his full support.
In light of recent political events, Greenwell said, “I was thinking about the specific situations I was reading about, of being bullied by peers or even by family. I never really meant for it to be a political statement, but I guess in a way it is.”
Although his inspiration is derived from LGBTQ youth, his pieces can apply to anyone.
“You start thinking about how they could mean more than the LGBTQ community,” Greenwell said. His art could be for “anyone who is struggling or having issues to some degree with a problem that they feel hopeless.”
Greenwell said he picked out the quotes that best told the individual’s story. Though he didn’t necessarily mean for it to become a memorial, he says he hopes those lost would have been proud to see their words being used to bring awareness to the cause.
“We need more progress for this situation,” Greenwell said. “I hope people take it and continue thinking about it and (it) be a call to action for change.”
An artist talk will be held with Greenwell in Slocumb Galleries March 2 at 5 p.m., where a discussion will be held on “Tragic Disclosures” and its inspiration.