Queer and gender-bending artists of colour from Toronto and New York will be the focus of a dynamic new art exhibit at the Raging Spoon in Toronto, opening on June 27. Gender: An Exhibition of Epic Proportions is designed to explore, deconstruct and worship the spectrum of genders.
The exhibition is being organized by The People Project, a Toronto group that provides programs, training and spaces for young queer artists to nurture the next generation of community leaders. It first came together when Kim Crosby, a People Project coordinator, came across the brklyn boyhood collective in New York.
“I was looking for additional content for the People Project’s OutWords curriculum. I’m always looking for how queer folk of colour are doing work all around us. I came across brklyn boyhood while doing research and planned a trip to New York around them,” she says.
While there, Crosby met the trans visual artist Genesis Tramaine.
“I saw the work and thought, ‘This is amazing, to see such large-scale oil painting by someone who is one of my peers, exploring gender and blackness in such an incredible way,’” she says.
Tramaine’s work reminded Crosby of the Toronto artist Tanja-Tiziana, whom she’d met at a previous exhibition of her work at the Raging Spoon. Crosby thought their work would complement each other well in a showcase.
“Between those two artists, I really wanted to create a space for people who are exploring and showcasing and fucking and worshipping gender in a lot of unique ways,” Crosby says.
The People Project then got to work planning an exhibit that would bring both artists together with more of Toronto’s emerging trans and queer artists. They decided to hold the event during Pride week as an unofficial alternative event.
Tiziana’s portrait series, Between Black & White: A Portrait of Transgender Toronto, will be remounted as part of the exhibit.
Gender will also feature work from several other emerging Toronto artists: Elisha Lim, who is best known for the narrative comic panel series 100 Butches; visual artist Francesca Nocera; Monica Latorre, who deconstructs gender via decorative glass dolls; the archival work of On Q Photography; and a short film by Jacub Fernandes, exploring the experiences of trans men of colour.
The exhibit is being offered as an alternative to Pride, says Victoria Mata, another People Project coordinator who’s helping to curate the exhibit.
“These aren’t attractive themes or points of reference for Pride,” she says. “There aren’t many places in the Pride program that challenge or try to look at all the different genders that exist.”
Another reason the event is alternative to Pride is the amount of paperwork and approvals that go into becoming an official event, Mata says.
“For a lot of community organizers, it’s very frustrating to explain why we should be a part of Pride,” she says. “We just decided to do it on our own. We’re strong supporters of Pride and the performers who are part of Pride. But we had an urgent need to create this space, and we didn’t want to go through the bureaucracy.”
For the organizers, the most important part of the project is the opportunity it presents for young trans artists to work together to promote common goals.
“We really want to create more opportunities to support each other more meaningfully and across borders,” Crosby says. “We recognize that we’re doing the same work and we have capacity to help our community in a broader way.”