Tea Dance 1980

Photographs by Thomas Moore of artist, performer, activist Michael Biello (and Friends) from the 1980s

October 6th – 15th, 2023

Biello Martin Studio / 148 N. 3rd Street / Old CIty / Philadelphia / 19106

Public Opening: Friday, October 6th, 5 PM – 8 PM with live percussion by Robin Burdulis

Thereafter by Appointment: info@biellomartin.com

Part of The Philadelphia Art & Design District’s events for Design Philadelphia 2023

Thomas Moore’s photos capture Biello, his life-partner Dan Martin, dancer Ishamel Houston-Jones and artist Warren Muller in a series of sculptural tableax. His 1980 Tea Dance Series features the dramatic ceramic, wood and leather tea sets, helmets and codpieces Biello designed and built for an exhibit at the Tyler School of Art: Clay 1980.

Biello & Martin attended the opening of Clay 1980 wearing ceramic codpieces, an act of creative expression and gay liberation which rattled and challenged Philadelphia’s conservative curators of crafts. Although Biello’s Striped Tea Set, Helmet & Codpiece were purchased by renowned collectors Andy and Ginny Lewis, Biello was never invited back into other prestigious shows or publications by curator Helen Drutt or to alumni exhibits at his alma mater University of the Arts. Despite their blue-chip reputations, both clearly missed opportunities to showcase Biello’s adventurous use of the clay medium, which he has continued to pursue to this day.

Moore’s 1988 Shroud Series will also be exhibited, featuring Biello & Martin in a series of intimate poses inspired by the extraordinary impact of the AIDS epidemic on gay life and love.

Moore, Biello & Martin were moved to share these images as a celebration of their own queer histories, and in response to recent rulings limiting LGBTQ freedoms. As they did 40+ years ago, Moore, Biello & Martin embrace the role artists and cultural activists need to play now, continuing to push the limits of creative expression – challenging ongoing inequality, prejudice, censorship, and injustice.