Nunca Cerramos is a series of digital photographs depicting artifacts, relics, and ritual objects that at first glance appear to be from an ancient time and place. In reality, the “artifacts” are created using digital 3D modeling software and are based on archival documents like advertisements, photographs, and other ephemera found at USC’s ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives. All of the artifacts are invented and loosely connected to now-defunct queer spaces in Los Angeles. In some, pictures of men found in gay bathhouse advertisements from the 70s are rendered as bronze wire sculptures, while in others the pages from a secret gay guidebook are made to look like an ancient stone tablet. In the photographs, the invented “artifacts” are displayed in indeterminate locales that reference domestic, museological, and gay bar/club settings that when taken together, form an imaginary and decentralized queer archive.
So often a culture’s heritage is appreciated, valued, and studied based on the wondrous objects that its people leave behind, but what happens when a culture is forced to be invisible and not leave a trace? How do those people get remembered? How do their rituals, way of life, and customs survive? In Nunca Cerramos, I create a parafiction out of archival materials–ephemera from the bars, bathhouses, and meeting places that are now nearly erased. I take this ephemera out of the stultifying confines of official archives and instead give them new life. In this work I am conjuring the gay ghosts that are trapped in the archive, pleading with them to haunt us so that we will never be able to forget that they once existed.