Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s new large-scale, multimedia exhibition, 50 States: Louisiana, unearths a 1720s history of a homosexual couple involved in the burgeoning indigo trade in colonial Louisiana. The work uniquely connects this tale to a series of gay Mardi Gras Balls that were held at the New Orleans Longshoremen’s Union Hall in the 1970s. Through video, sculpture, and sound, the installation envelops audiences in a 300-year span of queer life along the Mississippi River.
Bringing together their research into Louisiana archives; interviews with members of New Orleans’ LGBTQ community, historians and indigo experts; and travels to Louisiana and Dauphin Island, Alabama to shoot on-site video footage, the artists have created a fascinating visual experience that connects lost historical narratives to contemporary queer culture and LGBTQ community organizations.
Commissioned by DiverseWorks, 50 States: Louisiana is the sixth part of a long-term project by the artists that brings to light little known LGBTQ+ histories from each U.S. state. To date, they have completed and presented innovative, multidisciplinary projects about Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arkansas, in addition to Louisiana. The 50 States series is not only a visual art project giving visibility to suppressed historical narratives, but a life-structure allowing manifold avenues of inquiry, including lectures, performances, activist forums, an upcoming publishing collaboration, and the creation of interpersonal connections between otherwise siloed members of LGBTQ+ communities.