A Brief Inquiry into Queer Mythology was my second show with Shift Gallery, and was up for the month of November 2021. This show explored and reinterpreted queer myths of various world mythologies, mainly Greco-Roman myth and Christian saints, showing their importance and relevance to queer life today. 
Artist Statement
Myths are stories of meaning, carrying ideas and values down through generations as they are told and retold, shifting and changing as the culture telling the story evolves. Many of these myths of past generations involved stories of queerness; gods, saints, and heroes who lived and loved and died on the margins of gender and sexuality. They were treated honorably, and these pieces of their identities were valued. Most importantly, they gave queer people a story to see themselves in and a framework for their role in their community. But as time went on and society’s relationship to sexuality changed, many queer aspects of these figures quietly vanished from common knowledge.
This show is an attempt to retell a few of these stories and bring back some of the wonder that lies outside the confines of conventional heterosexual storytelling. Just as myths get told and retold time and time again, taking the pieces of what came before and reshaping them, it felt right to take art representing these myths from across the centuries and collage disparate images together to create a new, queerer, whole.
Color was spectacularly important in this series, an expression of vibrant, queer joy against the propriety and convention that often casts these stories in muted tones and white marble. These myths are loaded with love and hate, sex and death, and all manner of intense feeling that a soft, respectable palette cannot adequately convey. And as well, color has often stood as a sign of the queer experience. From the rainbow flag to the Lavender Menace and the pink triangle, bold color has represented the way we as queer people stand out from society and, as a symbol of LGBTQ+ movements, provided a space to be visible together.
Queer representation in media is a hot subject in contemporary discourse, with people on all sides debating how our stories should be told, who should tell them, and whether they should be told at all. But these discussions often treat queer stories as a recent phenomenon, that we popped into existence at Stonewall and have been trying to find our place in the media ever since. But the truth is that this is not new. We are not new. We have been in the world’s stories all along.

Adelphopoesis, acrylic and collage on panel, 9x12, 2021
Saints Sergius and Bacchus are a pair of 4th century martyrs revered in Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other eastern Christian traditions. The pair were high-ranking Roman soldiers who converted to Christianity, and once found out by their commander, were dressed in women's clothing and paraded around town and then beaten and ultimately beheaded. The two were very popular for the next few centuries and churches honoring them were built across the world.
The saints were also seen as an example of adelphopoeisis, or "brother-making," an early Christian ceremony akin to becoming blood brothers. This ceremony would be held in a church like a wedding and resulted in a lifelong, church-recognized bond. Historians continue to debate whether these ceremonies were openly/intentionally queer, however when the practice was ended by the Eastern Orthodox church, they cite that the practice "merely affords matter for some persons to fulfill their carnal desires and to enjoy sensual pleasures, as countless examples of actual experience have shown at various times and in various places..." So whether or not it was meant to be, the practice was co-opted by queer couples to have their relationships recognized by a Church that was rarely kind to them.
Saint Wilgefortis Revisited, acrylic on canvas, 30x40, 2021
Saint Wilgefortis was a 14th century Portugese saint, venerated across northern Europe. Daughter of a pagan king, she had become a Christian and taken a vow of chastity. Despite her vow, her father pushed for her to marry the King of Sicily, so she prayed for help to resist the marriage. As an answer to her prayer, God gave her a moustache and full beard, which ended the King of Sicily’s interest. Furious, her father proceeded to crucify her.
It is now widely accepted that her tale is more folklore than history, likely created to explain the Holy Face of Lucca, a crucifix statue in which Jesus is wearing a long, feminine robe. Despite that, Saint Wilgefortis provides a place in the Catholic canon for people outside the binary. Her beard is a gift from God, and it is not the hair itself but people’s prejudice about it that brings about her death.
In this painting, I reimagine Saint Wilgefortis not through the lens of tragedy, but as a sort of female Samson, blessed with a God-given beard that gives her powers to fight evil. 
Still Keeping Watch, acrylic on canvas, 24x30, 2021
Athena, goddess of wisdom, war, and crafts, is one of the twelve main gods of the Greek pantheon and has endured as a symbol of knowledge, freedom, democracy, and the arts. Athena was born fully grown out of her father Zeus’ head, fitting her status as patron of the mind. As one of the three virgin goddesses of the Greek pantheon, she was long upheld for her purity. Modern reinterpretations often cast her as asexual: someone who feels low or no sexual attraction or desire. This also fits with her domain and character, since the Greeks held the intellectual mind in higher regard over the baser desires of the body.
Jonathan Loved David, acrylic on canvas, 18x24, 2021
Jonathan and David are a pair of Biblical heroes from the books 1&2 Samuel. Jonathan was son of King Saul and heir to the throne of Israel, and David was the young upstart who slew Goliath. They fell for each other almost immediately and Jonathan pledged himself to David, advocating for and protecting David through his conflict with Saul. Their story ends with a tearful goodbye kiss as David must flee the kingdom, soon after which Jonathan is slain in battle. 
Looking at it through a modern queer lens, it is easy to read the text as romantic. From the line “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1) after which Jonathan ceremonially gives him all his clothing, to David declaring that the love of Jonathan “was greater than the love of women” (2 Samuel 1:26), the Bible clearly lays out how deeply these two men felt for each other. 
A lot of the debate over the relationship between these two is quite literally down to semantics. The text speaks of the love between the two, but Hebrew, like English, only has one word for love. It does not differentiate between romantic, sexual, or platonic love, leaving the context and extent of their relationship up for interpretation. Because of how we view masculinity and male friendships today, this deep, emotional relationship between two men just feels pretty gay.
To be clear, the purpose of this piece is not to convince everyone that the Bible says David and Jonathan had sex. Frankly, we will never know either way and I don’t think it even matters. (Although, David was a notoriously horny man anyway...) The text makes clear their depth of feeling, their open communication of their emotions with each other, and that they valued their relationship more than their other romances. Regardless of the extent of their relationship, it certainly falls within the modern queer concept of the chosen family, which emphasizes our ability to find emotional fulfillment through friendships and relationships of all sorts.

One Must Imagine Narcissus Happy, acrylic on canvas, 18x24, 2021
The story of Echo and Narcissus is a common fable: Narcissus was a beautiful young hunter who fell in love with his own reflection and wasted away at the edge of a pool, while Echo, able only to repeat what was said to her, looked on unable to stop him. Less commonly known is that Narcissus was cursed by Ameinias, a young warrior in love with him. After being rejected, Ameinias hung himself in front of Narcissus’ door and used his last breath to pray to Nemesis, goddess of revenge, to teach Narcissus a lesson for the pain he caused. And thus he fell in love with his own reflection the next time he saw his own beauty. Narcissus’ story is often used as a morality tale about vanity, used to warn the young away from caring too much about their appearance. Narcissus is not a hero, he’s a warning. 
But I really resonate with the image of him staring into the pool. Queer people don’t have the luxury of mapping our lives onto a common societal template, so we often have to go through a long process of introspection to figure out who we are, what we want, and where we are going. This can be a hard and painful process, but we end it with lives that are all our own and deliberately chosen for ourselves. In the stillness of the past year, trapped by myself in my apartment, I’ve had to metaphorically stare at my reflection. And for the first time, I choose to like what I see. 
Shame, acrylic on panel, 18x24, 2020
St. Sebastian gained status as a kind of gay folk saint in a surprisingly roundabout way. A Roman soldier in the 3rd century, St. Sebastian converted to Christianity during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of the Christians. After being found out, he was tied to a tree and shot full of arrows by members of his legion, then left for dead. After being rescued and nursed back to health by Saint Irene, he accosted the Emperor in his palace, berating him for his treatment of Christians. The enraged emperor had him beaten to death, successfully this time.
Over the centuries, St. Sebastian has served as patron saint of soldiers, the plague-stricken, athletes, and, ironically, archers. His iconography has varied, but over time has solidified into depicting him tied naked to the tree, penetrated by arrows and looking up to heaven in pain and divine ecstasy. This image resonated with queer folks, and over time he has come to serve as a symbol of the queer community, and gay men in particular. Unofficially, of course. 
In this piece, I have used the classic image of St. Sebastian as a metaphor for my own experiences of shame growing up gay and religious. 
Pandemic Pietà, acrylic on canvas, 36x36, 2021
A lament for the queer people who died alone during both of the ongoing pandemics.
Löwenmensch, acrylic on canvas, 24x48, 2021
The Löwenmensch is humanity’s oldest known figurative artwork. It’s a small statue of a person with the head of a lion carved out of a mammoth tusk, found in a cave in Germany and estimated to be over 35,000 years old. Prehistoric figurines of this sort are often interpreted to have some sort of spiritual significance, since they tend to be found in ritual spaces and would have taken hundreds of valuable hours to carve with stone tools.
The Löwenmensch has one main unique feature- a single, mysterious triangle for genitalia. Since it was unearthed, researchers have gone back and forth about whether the figure represented is male or female, but no consensus has been, or likely will ever be, reached. How would one even decipher the intended gender of this figure, if it has one? And what would that say about it? What was the significance of gender to people 35,000 years ago? And if we’re still here 35,000 years from now, what will it be then?
Voyeurs, acrylic on canvas, 48x24, 2021
Artemis was the Greek goddess of the hunt, famous for spending all her time in the woods with her gang of gal pals and having never been seen nude by any man. Once, while she was bathing with her huntresses in a spring, Actaeon, a local hunter, came across them and decided to snoop. As he spied on them, Artemis saw him hiding in the bushes. She cursed him, and he turned into a stag and was promptly killed by his own hunting dogs.
This myth has been painted over and over through the centuries, but curiously, most depictions concentrate on the moment the huntresses realize they are being watched. They show groups of women in various states of undress recoiling in shock and horror, artfully arranged for the viewer’s pleasure and rendered in soft pastels for a light, pastoral mood. And then these paintings are hung in galleries and museums, an endlessly frozen moment of violation for the viewer, like Actaeon, to gaze at. Does that make us complicit?
Xochipilli, acrylic on canvas, 18x36, 2021
Xochipilli was the Aztec god of flowers, art, song and dance, psychedelics, and homosexuality. His yearly Dance of Flowers festival celebrated indulgence and sexual freedom, and he was seen as a protector of homosexual men and male sex workers. Overall, his character is interpreted as a much kinder, softer deity than the majority of the hard and often brutal Aztec pantheon. 
There is a lot we don’t know about Aztec myth and religion, due mostly to Spain’s violent conquest of the region and subsequent burning of their records and documents, but what remains gives us a glimpse into queerness in pre-Colombian society.
Passion, acrylic on panel, 16x20, 2021
An exploration of the inherent homoeroticism of the hero/monster duo
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