Glamour as a means of self-actualization, resistance and survival is the central theme for Tough as Nails — a new show exhibiting the works of five up-and-coming queer artists at Younger Than Beyoncé Gallery (YTB). Now in its second season, YTB was created to give artists under the age of 33 a space in which their work can flourish and the opportunity for exposure at the outset of their careers.
The work showcased in Tough as Nails subverts traditional notions of glamour and queer representation through the use of various media, including porn, video installation and fashion.
“This project started with thinking about marginality and Beyoncé and how queers love Beyoncé,” says curator Genevieve Flavelle. “Beyoncé has become an interesting icon of glamour, wealth, power and agency. Self-constructed glamour has a very long tradition in the history of queer life. The exhibition draws on this history by taking up queer glamour as an embodied practice of expression, survival, critique and world-making for non-normative people.
“I’m interested specifically in how lived experience and artistic practice overlap in the work of the five artists in the show and how practices of glamour and self-making can be transgressive,” Flavelle says.
Maddie Alexander is one of the five featured artists. In Girl on Girl, Alexander layers text over porn stills, instigating a dialogue on lesbian objectification and representation in porn designed for heterosexual consumption.
“My work in the show is a photographic installation piece addressing the hetero-fetishization of queer women through the lens of pornography. Like many others, I’m sure, my first formative experiences and understanding of sexuality were through the lens of porn and pop culture.
“For a very long time I felt my sexuality was solely a fetish because of the way I had seen it trivialized. It did and still sometimes does give me a complex that I need to validate my identity,” Alexander says.
In Polished, Beck Gilmer-Osborne attempts to reconcile the intersection of gender identity, intimacy and mental illness. Inspired by Plato’s Symposium, the video installation sees the artist and their partner luxuriating in a tub, drinking boxed wine and negotiating transgender identity, love and its relationship with trauma.
“Glamour to me is a combination of my neuro-atypical behaviours and my queerness. I am excessive and obsessive, and I use various types of body adornments, decorations and alterations in order to assert my queerness when I am stuck in hetero spaces,” they say.. “I am still fairly new to Toronto, but I think my installation [. . .] mirrors the exhaustion both my partner and I feel being queer/trans artists with mental illnesses trying to survive in the city.”
“For me, glamour is more than dressing up and going to a queer party. It is constantly recognizing the male passing privilege I currently have, but constantly refuting that title and asserting my queerness and femme identity.
“Glamour is multifaceted. I may bite my nails off due to my anxiety, but I keep painting them so I can one day have claws.”