Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Elisha Lim’s illustrated gentlemen

Drawings of butches earn the first show slot at new feminist gallery

Attention all butches! Elisha Lim wants you! Though the Toronto-based queer trans artist identifies as butch, when it comes to sexual partners, femme girls need not apply.

“My mom once jokingly asked me why I don’t just date men, since I’m attracted to butchy women,” Lim says. “The butch/femme dynamic is pretty set in people’s minds. It’s a great myth to bust.”

Lim’s new exhibition, launching this week under the eponymous title Elisha Lim & The Illustrated Gentlemen, will feature a series of 50 drawings and an installation exploring the many butches that have passed through Lim’s life.

“I’ve had thousands of crushes on butches over the years,” Lim laughs. “This show is an homage to my queer community and the range of bodies that make it up.”

Each drawing is accompanied by an anecdote about Lim’s relationship with the butch in question. The drawings were originally intended to be published as a book under the title 100 Butches back in 2009, by American queer press Alyson Books.

But the publishing house folded its print division and now publishes e-books only. But luckily for Lim, another publisher wasn’t too hard to find.

“One of the guys from Alyson has launched his own press,” Lim says. “We’re expecting the book to come out in November this year. It’s too bad that it’s taken so long, but it’ll be great when it’s finally in print.”

The opening will also feature a performance by Lim’s band, The Sex Appeals. Known for their poppy hooks and quirky song titles like “I Wanna Suck Your Cock,” the all-queer five-piece ensemble has been steadily gaining popularity over the last year, with gigs at Pride and the AGO.

Readers may also be familiar with Lim’s comic, Sweetest Taboo, which ran in Xtra’s Ottawa edition in 2008 and 2009. Exploring children’s pop culture of the 1980s, the project aimed a queer lens at everything from Polka Dot Door to Flight of the Navigator.

Lim’s exhibition will mark the first show at the Feminist Art Gallery, a new initiative by art-dyke power-couple Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Louge. Also know by its acronym FAG, the gallery resides in the beautifully converted garage of the pair’s Parkdale home.

“Getting the nod from them means so much to me,” Lim says. “It’s such an incredible honour and a validation to be presented at this space. I have such huge respect for both of them.”

Rather than turning to traditional funding sources, FAG has assembled a team of feminist philanthropists, who provide financial support for the gallery and collectively make programming decisions. Interested parties, regardless of their gender, can make a contribution by getting in touch with the gallery through Facebook.

Though a lot of young artists wouldn’t expect to get much from a gallery in the early stages of their careers, Lim has been pleasantly surprised by the amount of support the space has provided.

“They’ve given me an artist fee, a generous materials budgets and so much attention through the process,” Lim says. “They even offer an artist bedroom in their home that’s available for use while you’re working on the show.”

But creating spaces for feminist art is about more than just bridging the gender disparity that exists in the art world.

“We live in a sexist world and the art world mirrors that,” Lim says. “Women aren’t a priority when it comes to programming choices. But initiatives like this will end up unearthing a lot of talent that we wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to see.”