What does it look like to grow up queer in Hamil­ton?

Art ex­hibit ex­plores young people’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions of gen­der and sex­u­al­ity

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - EMMA REILLY

One of the first things you’ll see when you walk into Hamil­ton Artists’ Inc. on James Street North is a large hu­man-shaped sculp­ture wrapped up in strands of yarn and colour­ful scarves.

This piece, made mostly from wood, yarn, chicken wire, and rain­bow-coloured tis­sue pa­per, is much more than the sum of its parts.

It’s a sym­bol of how a group of young Hamil­ton artists feel about their gen­der and sex­u­al­ity — and it’s the cen­tre­piece of a new ex­hibit that show­cases the ex­pe­ri­ences of LGBTQ+ youth in our com­mu­nity.

The ex­hibit, called “Grow­ing Up Queer in the Ham­mer,” was the brain­child of young artists from the RE-cre­ate art stu­dio on James Street North. Funded by the Hamil­ton Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion, RE-cre­ate of­fers a drop-in pro­gram three times a week for atrisk and street-in­volved youth.

The ex­hibit is the cul­mi­na­tion of months of dis­cus­sions, work­shops, and team­work, said Meghan Schu­ur­man, the stu­dio co-or­di­na­tor at RE-cre­ate. The ex­hi­bi­tion was in­cred­i­bly col­lab­o­ra­tive; Hamil­ton Artists’ Inc. do­nated the space and pro­vided the youth with artists’ fees, lo­cal LGBTQ artists held work­shops with the RE-cre­ate youth, and the Hamil­ton Tool Li­brary pro­vided stor­age and sup-

port through­out the project.

Grey Grant, 23, and Quinn Bergie, 18, both of whom cre­ated ex­hibits for “Grow­ing up Queer in the Ham­mer,” say their ex­pe­ri­ences in Hamil­ton as LGBTQ+ youth have been pos­i­tive.

“There was al­ways the oc­ca­sional neg­a­tive story, but that’s still tied to­gether with how I still found my com­mu­nity and am still happy in my com­mu­nity,” Grant said.

“A lot of my life I kind of saw it as more of a neg­a­tive thing than a pos­i­tive thing, just be­cause of who I grew up with and my sur­round­ings. It took me awhile to ac­tu­ally be com­fort­able with my­self and com­ing out,” said Bergie. “But since then, I’ve pretty much had good ex­pe­ri­ences out­side of fam­ily re­la­tion­ships. There are a few is­sues here and there, but mostly I’ve found it to be pretty pos­i­tive.”

Grant, who took the lead on cre­at­ing the main sculp­ture, says it is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the unique­ness of each in­di­vid­ual in the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity while also cel­e­brat­ing shared ex­pe­ri­ences and sim­i­lar­i­ties. The sculp­ture is ob­vi­ously a hu­man fig­ure, but it doesn’t have a dis­cernible gen­der and is leg­less to rep­re­sent those who may have mo­bil­ity is­sues.

“It’s sup­posed to be a cen­tral hub,” Grant said. “It’s ba­si­cally the em­bod­i­ment of the com­mu­nity — ev­ery­one helped dec­o­rate it and put it to­gether.”

Emerg­ing from the top of the sculp­ture are strands of yarn that ex­tend to var­i­ous points of the room, each one lead­ing to a dif­fer­ent piece in the ex­hibit. Each colour of yarn rep­re­sents a dif­fer­ent artist and leads to their work.

The other pieces in the ex­hi­bi­tion range from a zine to sculp­tures to wa­ter­colour to a large-scale vinyl wall de­cal that de­picts two fig­ures shar­ing an em­brace. Some delve into dif­fi­cult emo­tions — one piece is a crossstitch reading “I’m Sorry I Suck” and an­other de­picts a male fig­ure look­ing into the mir­ror and see­ing a tear­ful fe­male face re­flected back — while others of­fer a more whim­si­cal take on gen­der iden­tity.

“There’s a real em­pha­sis on the pos­i­tive as­pects of grow­ing up queer,” said Schu­ur­man.

Scat­tered through­out the ex­hibit are “Trans­for­ma­son jars” — glass ves­sels con­tain­ing ob­jects and ephemera that the young artists used to rep­re­sents trans­for­ma­tions in their lives sur­round­ing gen­der and sex­u­al­ity. The jars of­fer snap­shots of each artist’s life and ex­pe­ri­ences — for ex­am­ple, one jar is filled with but­tons and feath­ers: the but­tons rep­re­sent­ing dif­fer­ent people in the com­mu­nity who sup­ported the artist, and the feath­ers rep­re­sent­ing sup­port­ive or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“There was a re­ally nice metaphor around bugs and chrysalises and but­ter­flies and be­com­ing and fig­ur­ing out who you are and gen­der iden­tity jour­neys,” said Schu­ur­man.

JOHN RENNISON PHO­TOS, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Artist Grey Grant with a sculp­ture that’s “the em­bod­i­ment of the com­mu­nity — ev­ery­one helped dec­o­rate it and put it to­gether.”

Artist Quinn Bergie, 18, from the ex­hibit “Grow­ing up Queer in the Ham­mer.”

“Chunky Yet Funky,” by Erin Nolan.

“No 1 Lives There,” by Tan­ner Ward.

“Mir­ror, Mir­ror,” by Tay­lor Vi­o­let Ross.

“Blind­ness,” by Tan­ner Ward.

“Skat­ing,” by Erin Nolan.

“My Lips Are the Colour of My In­ner Af­flic­tion,” by Tay­lor Vi­o­let Ross.

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