Q&A with Glenn Tramantano

Glenn Tramantano’s exhibition Surrender Dorothy hangs at Gallery4Culture June 7–29.

In June’s exhibit, Surrender Dorothy, 
Glenn Tramantano reimagines Oz as a glitter-spattered war zone, the farmhouse in Kansas as a bucolic safe haven paved with rainbows and roses, Dorothy’s friends a clan of degenerates on the run from the Navel Investigative Service. Tramantano, who recently relocated to Seattle from NYC, works in graphite and glitter, colored pencil drawings on paper, emerald rhinestone-studded gas masks and water canteens to be used on wicked witches.

What’s the historical reference in Surrender Dorothy?
“Friend of Dorothy” is a code that’s been used in the military. The term originated in the early 20th century when it was impossible to openly identify as gay or discuss sexual orientation. The Naval Investigative Service picked up on it in the 1980s when they were trying to purge homosexuals from service. They thought there was an actual woman named Dorothy at the center of all this activity and they spent a lot of effort trying to locate her! It’s believed the name comes from The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy Gale.

Have you ever been in the military?
No, and I’m sensitive to the fact that discussing the military raises a lot of complicated issues. I want to deepen the conversation about the contemporary perception of war. There’s a disconnected, one-dimensionality to our understanding of war, a collective fantasy about what’s happening.

Which ties into the fantasy of Oz?
Right now the military is basically using robotic drones to fight for us, very much like science fiction or fantasy. But it’s reality—and there’s a disconnect for many people between what’s actually happening and what they think is happening. That’s where the cinematic relationship to war comes in.

What’s up next for you?
I have a series I started a while ago about the Roman emperor Hadrian and his romantic relationship with Antonious. After Antonious died, Hadrian erected monuments to him and established a religious cult based on his life.