The first time Damian Mellin was called a fairy, he took it as a compliment. A fierce and fabulous five-year-old, he turned up at school one day with his nails painted bright red. Imagining the other kids would be jealous of his crimson talons, when the slur was tossed his way, he wore it like a badge of honour, at least for the first few days.
“When you think about what a fairy actually is, it’s not a bad thing at all,” the Toronto-born, Newmarket-based artist says. “They’re mythical creatures with the ability to fly and all sorts of magical powers. At that age you’re often hearing fairy tales, so I thought it was a positive thing. I was already realizing I was gay, and I thought people could see it but were recognizing it as something good. It was about a week before I figured out it was a bad thing, and I wouldn’t be able to express it for a long time.”
Mellin’s current show aims to reclaim the term and celebrate pride through difference. Composed of nearly 30 pieces, it includes sculptural works, installation and posters, all encouraging us to release the winged weirdo within. Touching on issues around the history of AIDS, the show posits freakiness, not as a cause of adversity, but as a means of dealing with it.
“Queers have the ability to be ridiculously fierce while going through incredibly hard times,” he says. “There’s a top-down pressure that comes from both the gay community and the straight world telling us that we should aim to be the same as everyone else. In reality, we’re quite different. Queers have something special about us, which means sometimes we’re going to get harassed. But what’s special about us is what enables us to survive.”
Magic Fairy Freakshow
Opening Sat, May 4, 8pm
Runs until Wed, May 29
Glad Day Bookshop, 598 Yonge St