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Review: LGBTQ voices expressed in ‘Don’t Ask. Do Tell’ at Mize Gallery in St. Petersburg

The gallery has resumed weekend hours. The exhibition is also online and there is a virtual tour led by the curators.

COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Pride events that were scheduled this month. This was especially disappointing in St. Petersburg, where the Pride celebration is the largest in the Southeast. But it didn’t get canceled at Mize Gallery, where the new exhibition “Don’t Ask. Do Tell” is open.

The show is co-curated by Chad Mize and Kurt Piazza. There is no theme, but they asked artists, who all identify as part of the LGBTQ community, to express their voices.

There are many representations of the male form in the show. Dylan Todd’s photographic self-portrait, Dylan as David, is a dramatic black-and-white piece with Todd posing in the contrapposto stance of Michealangelo’s iconic statue.

Dylan Todd's photographic self portrait, "Dylan as David" in on display in "Don't As. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [DYLAN TODD | Courtesy of Dylan Todd]

Cake Marques’ Sebastian Bewails depicts St. Sebastian as a beautiful boy with a jawline for days, arrows piercing his perfect body. The martyr is a gay icon, because of the portrayal at the time of his death as a young, half-naked man. A crow on his shoulder represents death.

Cake Marques' "Sebastian Bewails" is included in "Don't Ask. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [Courtesy of Chad Mize]

Saumitra Chandratreya applied gold leaf to bottles of the antiretroviral therapy medications Odefsey and Truvada and arranged them into a gleaming dollar sign. Vital Greed is a comment on the price of these medications, which would cost a person living with HIV who doesn’t have insurance $123 a day.

“By making this work, I want to create a space for us to reflect on the real work that we all need to do to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable and to push for more generic medicines at affordable prices,” Chandratreya wrote in a Facebook post.

He plans to donate 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the piece to the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth.

Saumitra Chanadratreya's "Vital Greed" is included in "Don't Ask. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [Courtesy of Chad Mize]

The show is full of color and some played with the title for inspiration. Mize made a big red, glittery mouth stretched into a smile, with rainbow colored teeth, titled Do Tell. Jay Hoff arranged the word Tell in rainbow-colored Legos onto a background of gray Legos.

Jay Hoff's "Tell" is included in "Don't Ask. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [Courtesy of Chad Mize]

Andrea Pawlisz expressed herself with 24 Pieces of Me, a series of 5- by 5-inch paintings that depict a range of items, from a lawn chair, to the Batman symbol, to Patty and Marcie of Peanuts fame.

Andrea Pawlisz's series, "24 Pieces of Me" in on display in "Don't As. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [Courtesy of Chad Mize]

Lucky LeRoy submitted 1,900 Superstar Postcards, a series of celebrity portraits spay-painted on 6- by 4-inch cards. They’re not all on display, but just knowing that he made that many is impressive. The celebrities include many gay icons and activists and also local personalities.

Lucky LeRoy's series of "Superstar Postcards" is included in "Don't Ask. Do Tell" at Mize Gallery. [Courtesy of Chad Mize]

There are a variety of other pieces to enjoy in the well-presented exhibition, each with its own voice.

If you go

“Don’t Ask. Do Tell” remains on display through June 30. Free. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays. 689 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg. (727) 251-8529. chadmize.com.

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