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.
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.