What Happened to All the Dyke Bars? An Artist Answers by Building Her Own

An interior view of Macon Reed's Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, 2015.

An interior view of Macon Reed’s Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, (2015). (Photo: Courtesy of PULSE New York/Mackin Projects)

Where have all the dyke bars gone?

That question is one Chicago-based artist Macon Reed hopes to answer with her immersive, life-size installation, Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, which goes on view at Pulse Contemporary Art Fair at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea from March 3 through 6.

The bar, made from cardboard, plaster and wood, is an homage to what Ms. Macon observes as a declining phenomenon of the queer community.

“I find myself traveling around the country a lot, and I heard about dyke bars closing in every city I go to,” she told the Observer.

Artist Macon Reed plays pool inside her installation Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, 2015.

Artist Macon Reed plays pool inside her installation Eulogy for the Dyke Bar, (2015). (Photo: Courtesy of PULSE New York/Mackin Projects)

The artist’s conversations with friends and acquaintances from her travels inspired her to investigate exactly why once-thriving queer female spaces are on the decline. What she found was not a single answer, but rather a variety of contributing factors, such as the socio-economic disparity of women and gentrification of queer neighborhoods.

“I don’t have the answers,” she said. “But I want to bring people together and talk about it.”

While the installation is in most respects a playful recreation—neon bottles line a mirrored bar and mock-wood paneling covers the walls—it will still be a fully functioning water hole for the duration of the fair, serving up drinks to visitors and acting as a central venue for a series of talks and events, from a DJ happy hour on Thursday to a drag show on Saturday.

A detail of a dartboard made by Ms. Reed.

A detail of a dartboard made by Ms. Reed. (Photo: Courtesy of PULSE New York/Mackin Projects)

“I want to have it come to life,” she said. “My favorite part of the project is the storytelling—hearing what these places have meant to people.”

Other notable elements include a pool table, a wall of archival black and white images, membership cards and letters from former bar owners on closing their beloved businesses.

The project’s culminating event, the “Eulogy Ritual,” will happen Sunday afternoon, and include a series of stories from dyke bars past and present.

Eulogy for the Dyke Bar at Brooklyn Wayfarers last summer.

Eulogy for the Dyke Bar at Brooklyn Wayfarers last summer. (Photo: Courtesy of PULSE New York/Mackin Projects)

This will be the second time Ms. Reed will be showing the bar. The work was exhibited once before, last summer at Brooklyn Wayfarers where it was such a hit “there was a line around the block for hours,” she told us. In fact, so many visitors came to see the project, Ms. Reed had do two runs of her programming schedule and offer a livestream of the events for those who couldn’t fit inside.

But while she seeks to create an inclusive space for all, she acknowledges that the terminology of dyke bars remains divisive to some.

“It’s a term that’s really loose and that’s a strong point,” she says. “The way I’m using the word dyke is in the most expansive way possible. It’s less about sexuality and who I sleep with, and more about a thinking of how I see myself in the world.”

What Happened to All the Dyke Bars? An Artist Answers by Building Her Own