Visualizing the Impossible: Artist Edie Fake Investigates

Queer grief and joy in the works of artist, Edie Fake, who created a new installation at Meow Wolf Santa Fe.

Edie Fake is a painter and visual artist whose work examines issues of trans identity in queer space, through the lens of architecture and ornamentation. With bursts of color on shadowy backgrounds, Fake’s work suggests a light in the darkness, hope in despair, encouraging viewers to see the potential of color and light and darkness. Fake’s new hallway installation at Meow Wolf is also pushing the boundaries of the potential of space, and how we experience ourselves within that space. 

“Potential is the core of what I started designing for Meow Wolf. There’s some fake staircases that move in weird directions, and the hallway has three different entrance points so that you can choose where you go, and think about the potential for different portals and dimensions that could open in that space. The hallway is still in progress, but it also has mirrors so you can get a multidimensional sense of yourself in that place.” 

And isn’t that what art should do? 

“Catacomber’s All-Ways” by Edie Fake at House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. Photo by Kate Russell

In an interview with DMAG, poet, comedian, and queer icon Alok Vaid-Menon was asked, “Who do you see now, today, when you look in the mirror?” Their response: “I think for the first time I don’t see – I experience myself. I feel deeply aware of the fact that having a body is perpetual drag, because I’m a soul first, which means the rest is all dress-up and play. So the mirror will never penetrate as deep as the poem. If we’re trying to see ourselves, shouldn’t we be writing? That’s where I really see myself, when I’m creating art, the most advanced technology of the human species–art.” 

Originally from Chicago, Fake has lived nomadically in California and across the continental United States. 

“Walking around the city after living nomadically for a few years, I was struck by a feeling of queer history under my feet,” says Fake. “But also not knowing it and knowing I had to dig into it…I’m not an archivist or a librarian, so I’d go to the LGBT Library in Chicago and be like, ‘Well, I’m looking up queer spaces?’ And they were like, ‘Yes, and?’ (laughs) But I kind of found my footing with that, looking at ads and gay graphics in old gay magazines. There was one ad for a gay bar called the Virgo Out, and as a Virgo, I was like, ‘Where is that?!’ and I biked over to it and it had been turned into a strip mall, it was not anything. But the excitement of that potential space…and recognizing that that space existed in the city I’m in, was so important to me in developing Memory Palaces.”

His works display this expansive understanding of place and space but Fake also uses art as a way to process grief and loss. 

Memory Palace is a tool for specializing your memories to help you navigate them, putting them into an architectural space in your mind, to help you remember anything – the importance of queer history, [for example],” says Fake. “And, as I was working on this body of work, I lost a lot of people in my life, so it became also a grieving tool to access this thinking place through drawing, and pulling from ornamentation on buildings in Chicago. That was kind of a source material, combining and recombining them into what I keep calling ‘ecstatic architecture,’ because adding color and unpredictability to how they come together into structures they build was really part of the excitement. It made queer history in Chicago and queer spaces stand out to me–everything from little coffee shops, to dance clubs, all of these spaces that don't get remembered but are sites where I realized community happens. It really helped me process loss to have this drawing practice.”

geometric shapes and mirrors in multiple colors and directions leading down a hallway, as part of a new installation at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico
“Catacomber’s All-Ways” by Edie Fake at House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe. Photo by Kate Russell

Art and the act of creation is how artists work out our grief and love and passion, and as viewers, aren’t our reactions a way of reliving that catharsis through the act of engagement? The discovery of ourselves through art is a process that cannot be overstated or simulated or replicated. It is a journey that is individual to each of us, and just as each book is a different adventure, the more art we encounter the more worlds we visit. Creating and sharing art is one of the ways in which humans can truly see one another, our fantasies, and our visions for the future.

“This is an almost fully abstract piece from a few years ago, but I had started making a body of work around the idea of sandcastles. This was during the pandemic and it got me thinking about how watching things that I thought were well-established wash away so quickly, …thinking about how the community felt like scattered pieces, and then reassembling into something. So, how do things get rebuilt? Not just rebuilt because they need to be, but rebuilt with joy and with different connections and the flexibility to withstand things, like catastrophic climate change. It’s about seeing how these particles assemble.” 

Even when a better future seems impossible, our collective envisioning of that future is vital. In my personal favorite of his pieces, Affordable Housing for Trans Elders (2019) for BAMPFA in Berkeley, CA, Fake envisions a future community for those elders–one that’s vibrant, colorful, joyful, and of course, a little queer. 

“I was helping a mentor and elder of mine find housing…to see how much precarity they lived in, how their age and their identity played into their search for housing, just for being themselves and aging,” Fake says. “And it got me imagining my own experience with that process and thinking about what affordable housing might look like for trans elders–wild, joyful, lively, and connected. It’s an invitation to imagine potential spaces…I feel like, as a trans person, there’s a lot of precarious stuff happening…in times where it feels like a lot of possibilities are closing down, things can feel impossible. But what if it does get built?” 

“What happens when we create, build, paint, imagine spaces that we’re told are impossible or potentially impossible?” Fake asks. “The importance of continuing to do that envisioning when it feels like doors are closing [cannot be overstated].” 

Want more? Watch our video interview with Edie Fake on Instagram.