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Kate Conroy is a New York artist who you might meet and immediately like, but never quite expect the compound hilarity Conroy can draw out of an audience. For the last two years, Conroy has been developing The Giles Findings: A Natural Herstory of Lesbeings, a conceptual project connecting lesbeing hominids to Amelia Earhart's fatal crash site, the Bermuda Triangle, and New York's Bowery via lesbeing artists' DNA. As Professor B. Giles, Conroy presents her research and takes questions from the audience, making the art piece an interactive and immersive experience. What I find particularly refreshing about Conroy's work is the playful dynamic she creates with cultural contagion and the culturally contained, which is the undercurrent of her work with The Giles Findings.
In late July, I met Conroy at her East Village studio, where we talked about living in New York and going to grad school here, art history, her creative practice, and most importantly: Conroy's current installation for the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History at The Leslie Lohman Museum. What follows is an edited interview with the artist, completed in August 2012.
Conroy's Professor B. Giles. Photography by Adrianne Koteen.
Patricia: What compelled you to develop this project?
Kate: Party favors! The first series of petri dish portraits were created as party favors for a cultural exchange. They were a way to share my cultural community with others. The migration study followed to illustrate how my community finds place as an anchor to creativity. The Giles Findings emerged by osmosis.
Did Professor Giles emerge as a character to specifically voice the comically authoritative aspect of the work, or did you have other plans for Giles? She's like the Agent Scully of Planet Lesbotron.
She is sort of Scully-esque! Giles was sent to me from somewhere that’s for sure—I had not set out to create a character. I was presenting my work to a very small but tough audience in a conceptual studio with Karen Finley. Finley was very, very supportive and encouraged me to present before I felt fully prepared.
This forced me to focus more in the moment than in preparation. I felt that I was presenting as myself, but everyone asked me afterward;