Joel Parsons

Joel Parsons

Director, Clough Hanson Gallery; Program Director of Gender and Sexuality Studies

Joel Parsons is an artist, curator, writer, and teacher based in Memphis, where he is Assistant Professor of Art, Director of Clough-Hanson Gallery, and Chair of the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Rhodes College. His artistic practice centers queer intimacy, and has been shown at Yale University’s Greene Gallery; Western Exhibitions in Chicago, IL; Flyweight Gallery in New York, NY; and the Yerba Buena Art Center Triennial in San Francisco, CA. He has choreographed and performed at venues including Ballet Memphis, Goner Fest, Delta Sol Farm, and Quintron and Miss Pussycat’s Maritime Ball. Along with his partner, Steven McMahon, he is the cofounder of Beige, an alternative gallery and performance space devoted to the work of queer artists. Grants and awards include a residency at the Tom of Finland Foundation, a Mellon Grant for Pedagogical Innovation, a Mellon Grant for the Liberal Arts and Social Justice in the 21st Century, an Award of Excellence from the Tennessee Association of Museums, the John Adams Master of Fine Arts Fellowship, Rhodes College Hall of Fame, and the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. He received a BA from Rhodes College, Phi Beta Kappa; and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Artist Statement

I am not satisfied with the world I live in, so I have to make a new world, for myself and for the people I love. I construct a habitable place between the actual and the ideal, estrangement and identification, seduction and alienation, failure and success - a place to perform ambivalences. I operate promiscuously, through bad ballet, queer country music, guerilla organizing, unstable and ephemeral objects, embarrassingly romantic film, and always, always through drawing. In all of these practices, I extend myself, awkwardly but earnestly, sincerely but not without humor, into a space of vulnerability in the hope of finding new ways of being here, in the world, with other people.


B.A. Rhodes College
M.F.A. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
a  figure in a red shirt faces a yellow wall and holds a bouquet against the wall
a photo of a male with his eyes closed, holding flowers and with flowers in his mouth
a drawing of male and female torsos linked together like a Mobius strip