Carly Stone, an 18-year-old arts student at Melbourne University, launched Fledgeling late last year as a hybrid magazine/art collective that would allow space for emerging artists working outside the dominant power structures of the industry - mostly straight, white men.
“I’m interested in exploring the emerging phenomenon of ‘queer art’, a term that belongs to artists who remain notoriously underrepresented, as both a liberating and inhibiting definition,” Stone says.
Stone - a queer writer and musician - notes that while there’s power in self-identifying as LGBTIQ+ and exploring that in your art, it can also be used to pigeonhole.
“When an artist is named ‘queer’, their work, too, becomes ‘queer’ and as such, these artists are often confined to this two-dimensional label, unable to explore other facets of the human experience,” she adds. “Queer artists, alongside female artists, artists of colour, and artists in other minorities, are made vulnerable to the power hierarchies that routinely suppress minority voices.”
Fledgeling offers a new framework. “When we remove that baseline of art, it can still be about the queer experience or of being a person of colour, but when you change the context, the art has a lot more meaning.”
South Space 18 - an emerging music, art, and film festival taking over everything from live music venues to local cafes in Melbourne's inner-south - was an ideal launch-pad for Fledgeling’s first exhibition.
“The exhibition is super-exciting, because even though Fledgeling started as a magazine, we really wanted to develop it into something more of a collective,” Stone says.
Lulu Spencer, front woman of Hotel Fifteen Love, will perform a solo show at the opening, and you’ll also be able to buy a copy of Fledgeling’s first zine, featuring the work of artists who have just graduated from high school.
Championing young artists is a priority, and another voice regularly drowned out in the art world, Stone argues. Everyone working on the first edition was under 19, with all contributors under 25. Each of the six artists exhibiting at the Fledgeling gallery opening is under 21.
“It’s really important for emerging artists especially to have space in an exhibition or a magazine, but they don’t necessarily have to be well-known already or bow down to the traditional dynamic of the art world,” Stone says.
Spearing, whose acrylic work on canvas ‘Untitled (Mum)’ is inspired by his childhood experience of parental alcoholism, says, “I believe Fledgeling is an important magazine as it gives representation to the diverse experiences of queer youth that wouldn’t otherwise be shown in more mainstream media.”
Beiza, showing ‘The Garden of (we)Eden’, agrees. “The really wonderful thing about Fledgeling is not only does it give marginalised groups a platform to exhibit their work, it also it gives them a platform to exhibit their work in a safe space where they won't be tokenised or labelled.”
Milburn, whose work addresses coming to terms with their-non-binary identity and living with chronic illness, says. “I'm so fortunate to have access to a community of young people like those at Fledgeling and to have the resources, support and representation that is available.”