THE PROJECT: The Winnipeg Arts Council’s public art program WITH ART paired artist Lisa Wood with The Rainbow Resource Centre’s youth program Peer Project for Youth to create a collaborative public artwork.
THE CONTEXT: The participants were young people who identified gender, identity and sexuality as key issues. They talked about forming their identities while negotiating, pushing and breaking perceived norms of gender and sexuality as set by society, peers, family, school, and workplace. It was important for them to be visible, to be acknowledged and to be accepted in their queer identity. They want to be role models, educators, and human rights advocates.
CREATING THE PLAN: Through weekly WITH ART meetings, the group decided that the participants would each create an artwork in order to explore their varied experiences. This was instead of creating a single collaborative artwork with a singular message about being queer. Their work would be identity-based, a form of a self-portrait, in paint or mixed media on canvas. Lisa Wood agreed to create a painted life-size figurative portrait of each person to accompany that participant’s work. Wood’s portrait would show the exterior of each person as strong and confident, using oil painting’s sentiment of power and authority. The participants’ self-portraits would be an interior take, and allow each person to express their identity, individuality, and humanity. Wood’s portraits would give a face to this part of the queer youth’s community, while the participants’ portraits would explore personal struggles and triumphs, reinforcing their belief that the personal truly is political.
CELEBRATING THE RESULT: In order to commemorate the completion of Queer Perspectives, the artworks created by Alison Burdeny, Vic Peters, Sheila Mogg, Julian Kirchmann and Lisa Wood are being exhibited in the Flux Gallery at aceartinc. between October 10 – October 27, 2012. In addition, the publication called Queer Perspectives represents a long-lasting artifact that documents the group’s year together. It is an artwork unto itself, and can be accessed by the public through libraries, resource centres, and schools. It is the group’s hope that spending time with this publication will give queer or questioning youth a feeling of community, and that it will provide an opportunity for education for the general public.