Ace Lehner Interviewed by D. K. Broderick for the Wassaic Project


In response to the question, “Where do you call home?” you expressed that home is wherever you feel comfortable. In doing so, you didn't site home in a specific geographic location but instead in and around a specific emotional response — comfort. Where do you feel comfortable and how does your idea of home factor into your past and present writing, photography, and video work?

Creating my own family, as a queer person, was important. It’s really common and prevalent in the queer scene, it’s a part of what we all do, create our own families. It's not an axiomatic, but it’s an inter-generational, family. You find older people that are queer that become your mentors and your family. Having the privilege to go to an art graduate school in the Bay area was so helpful to me in that way. Because I had so many interesting queer mentors and family of all backgrounds. People that are the same age become family. People that are younger become family. And that process has really been more helpful as a family structure than any other. And this isn't just limited to queer people, but extends to those who are dealing with things that I'm interested in artistically, social justice-wise, and in terms of scholarship. All that feels familial.

And so wherever I find these communities — the progressive, radical, anti-racist, trans-positive families — geography is less important than feeling like I can have conversations that I want to be having with people that are critically engaged, thoughtful, and socially conscious. With people that get me. That's more important to me than the geography of it. I've found different geographies and spaces to be fascinating. Living in the Hudson Valley can be super comfortable as long as the people around you make sense. It's the people that I'm surrounded by that make it home.

In regards to how that informs my practice, I think that's an interesting question because sometimes, when changing geographic location, I notice how people interact with me differently. For example, living in the Bay area, people are totally comfortable with trans non-binary people. For example they’re accustomed to asking everyone “what's your pronoun? They, them? Ok, cool.” Right off the bat, you ask people that and it's fine and you’re over it and you move on. But then, living in the Hudson Valley, I go into a grocery store and people are like "uhhhhh." Suddenly you become a unicorn when you're not in a pack of unicorns. So that's interesting because it's made me take up more space in my own work as a non-binary person. So I've been making more work about that because it seems important to take up that non-binary space. Like now I have to make representations about myself and my own identity because here that's not happening, no one’s doing that, and there’s no trans and non-binary visibility or knowledge. It is interesting how geography changes and impacts what I'm making. In the Bay area, thinking about representation meant making photo and video work about exploring what it means to be a Mexican-American queer person in that place, because you're in a landscape that used to be Mexico but now has been colonized and become California. So there's these layers of history, and there it made sense to think about that condition, that history, and how it impacts peoples’ lives today. I collaborated with Libby Paloma on the project Chingona Por Vida, which was about her identity in that space and what it means to be a queer femme Mexican-American in the Bay Area today. You'll actually meet later. We're married.