Louisville Magazine

OCT 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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110 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.18 and dug and, finally, an art crew came through the haze and gave her a helping hand, some water. On I-80, she needed coffee. Having drunk down a sunset in Medicine Bow- Routt National Forest, watching the day shift its mind to night and the leaves change their minds to fall, von Roenn made up her own mind: She would pull an all-nighter to get home. She Googled Starbucks, approached a little town called Laramie, Wyoming. at's when she heard it: the grinding metal sound. e same sound she heard back in Nevada before that import- ant-looking piece of metal — the drive shaft — fell out. Kerplunk then, kerplunk again. e 34-year-old lost control of the wheel, the brakes. e van halted. Some men helped push her to the side of the road, next to an alley. It was 9 p.m. Quiet downtown. Von Roenn decided to sleep. Snuggled in the back of the van like she'd been for the past three weeks, von Roenn had a realization: is is where Matthew Shepard was killed. Consider Shepard's 1998 murder as von Roenn's intro into the gay world. Von Roenn remembers hearing about Shepard — the gay man who was brutally beaten by two straight men and left to die on a fence post in the Wyoming weeds — on the news growing up in Bardstown, where she didn't know a single gay person. Not even herself. She was in high school then, with her long blond hair, her blue eyes and an off-and-on boyfriend she'd had since eight years old. is was before her series of coming-outs: to her best friend, then her family. She shaved her head and started dressing in her brother's baggy clothes and eventually found her look in bowties and suspenders, like a dapper young man. Still, Shepard's death stuck. (She learned more about the murder in 2009, upon passage of the U.S. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act.) Shepard is in von Roenn's installation. Well, was. e little 3D-printed shep- herd-boy figurine representing him was hijacked from atop one of the dressers by someone at Burning Man. "At first I was sad," von Roenn says. "en I thought someone might be participating." en she saw the other damage. A "vote" sign lay crushed next to a milk carton, referencing Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in America, who was assas- sinated in 1978. e Venus de Milo with a boom box— representing transgender woman Venus Xtravaganza's 1988 murder — was broken at the base, "self-hate" written on her body. e Trojan Horse — representing the quadruple homicide of a lesbian couple and their two kids in Troy, New York, earlier this year — was turned on its side. Straight on, Opening the Closet is a collection of seven tall, rectangular wooden units lined up side-by-side, with shelves, places to hang clothes, drawers to put undies in — or, in von Roenn's case, "trigger dioramas." With this Closet, there's nothing to walk into or out of. ere are no doors. In January, when von Roenn saw the closet in the Shelby Park wood shop where she'd started apprenticing — to learn how to build, the Closet in the fore- front of her mind — she asked and asked her boss about it. Finally, he let her have the closet. She painted it white. Every detail white. Every last figurine. In one drawer, blood bags are full of white blood, a reference to the 2015 FDA decision to lift its lifetime ban on gay men donating blood. Pictures of some of the 25 transgender people murdered in the U.S. so far this year swim in a sea of white, like a cloud, like a little cubby of heaven.

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