Ryan Leitner

Every year, Paper Machine’s Residency hosts local and national/international artists to develop creative projects and public programs that explore and expand the possibilities of print-based artistic inquiry.

This year one of three resident artists is Ryan Leitner. His artistic inquiry is directed toward the visualization of queerness in different environments such as public and private spaces, the workplace, and archival documents. 

For this residency, Ryan further develops his Strange Inheritance project that began as a traveling performance piece. Leitner visited queer monuments and heritage sites in many U.S. cities including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia,  Boston, and several New Orleans monuments sites such as the AIDS memorial in Washington Square Park and the memorial site in the Faerie Playhouse garden on Esplanade comprising cremains of several gay rights activists who lived in New Orleans. 

Sadly, Leitner discovered many disused locations. With personal sweat and grants from SMFA Traveling Fellowship—Tufts University, the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and the Office of Human Rights and Equity in New Orleans, Leitner has restored the Pink Dolphin Statue in Galveston and the Upstairs Lounge Plaque in New Orleans. Bravely, Leitner assiduously cleaned and repaired many bringing back dignity and pride to the memory of gay, queer, and transgender individuals who have come before him.

Figure 1 – Top: Transgender Memorial Garden, St. Louis, MO. Middle (left) Faerie Playhouse memorial garden,  New Orleans, LA;  (right) AIDS Memorial Indianapolis, IN, with activist and drag queen Coby “Blossom” Palmer of The Indy Bag Ladies and Ryan McConnell from The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis. Bottom (left) Upstairs Lounge Plaque, New Orleans, LA after restorations by the Office of Human Rights and Equity; (left) Pink Dolphin Monument, Galveston, TX, after restorations by artist Ryan Hawk.

Over the years Strange Inheritance continues its focus on queer visibility through history and culture. It has grown into a body of performance, installation, and visual art representing love “for a community that has always needed to fight for its visibility, and love for a community that
will always need to fight for its rights.” —Ryan Leitner, Ambush Magazine, April 14, 2020.

Figure 2 – Top (left) plaque in Lexington, KY commemorating the oldest continuous LGBTQ gathering place in the state; (right) and Middle left) reconstruction of the Upstairs Lounge plaque. Final three images are from the reconstruction of the Pink Dolphin Monument.

During his residency at Paper Machine, he will be creating a series of art books that pull from his
research, work, and experiences along his Strange Inheritance journey.
ABC welcomes Ryan and looks forward to his book arts project celebrating queer history and
rich legacy of civil rights activism in the queer community.

Check back here for periodic updates to Leitner’s work during his Paper Machine Residency.