Allyson Mitchell wonders whether it’s possible to make “pussy art that’s not offensive.”
 
So don’t be offended by the title of her new exhibition, Creep Lez, which will run until Sept 30 at the Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects.
 
“It’s made for a queer audience who already understand the imagery and ideas,” she says.
 
Consider yourself warned. Mitchell’s works are complex, and she admits that they’re best suited to those who are studied in queer and feminist theories.  
 
Her exhibition depicts some of the hardships women and members of the larger queer community face trying to take part in aspects of mainstream culture.
 
Creep Lez is a product of Mitchell’s vision of lesbian identity that she calls "deep lez." She has developed the idea over 10 years.
 
“It’s about strategizing to remain radical,” she says. “I’d rather be a creep than a good lez.”
 
Mitchell, who is also an assistant professor in the School of Women's Studies at York University, says Creep Lez was developed through discussions with students about the challenges feminist histories pose today. Those talks inspired Mitchell to create and display “pussy art” that does not offend the sensitivities of mainstream audiences.
 
Alongside several of Mitchell’s earlier works, Creep Lez showcases six new pieces. “I’m really invested in what feminist cultural production is and what it can be,” she says.
 
A self-taught artist, Mitchell has been practising her craft for more than 16 years. She prefers to work with materials accessible to the average person.
 
Gallery-goers get a glimpse of this with Sorry Butt This Venis Is a Pagina, which was created on a plastic canvas. The play on language of its title highlights how appearances can be deceiving.
 
“It’s meant to be a freeing statement around sex and gender,” Mitchell says. “Gender is so tied to sex that people have a hard time separating the two.”
 
The exhibition also features a series of paintings titled Sheila Pepe’s Moustache, inspired by the out artist and educator of the same name. “The series is largely about self-care and how we take care of each other and ourselves,” Mitchell says.
 
It also pays homage to its namesake. “She lives in a way that’s very unapologetic,” Mitchell says. “And she has an awesome mustache.”
 
Curators at the Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects are no strangers to queer art. “We do show a number of gay works at the gallery,” says Katharine Mulherin, the gallery's director. “With Allyson, there is a nice academic approach to her work.”
 
Mitchell and Mulherin have worked together in the past, but this is Mitchell’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
 
“People are really looking forward to it,” Mulherin says. “They just love her and her humorous critique.”
 

Creep Lez
Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects
1082 & 1086 Queen St W
Runs till Sun, Sept 30
Thurs-Sat, noon-6pm; Sun, 1-6pm
katharinemulherin.com
  
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