The historic Gault building was offered up to artists so they may have a creative hub from which to hone their skills and release into the public space their artistic voice. This has allowed Artspace to be an accessible and diverse creative space. To truly honour, and truly utilize this gift, we believe that the building itself can also be a canvass upon which artists can have their voices carry into community. This community being the creative campus that is the Exchange District; a prized historical neighbourhood. Begrudgingly, Winston Churchill might have been correct in saying that ‘’History is written by the victors’’. Thankfully, we know that artists have the capacity to bring into the public space elements of our history that is all too often not captured in textbooks and elsewhere. And there isn’t a better time to let the voices of under represented communities change how we understand our history and community. It is for those reasons, and many more, that we launched Vesti_art , a double public art project set in the vestibules of Artspace.
Setting the tone as you enter Artspace, or as you exit back into community, is two public art pieces that remind us that art has the power to transform space and has the capacity to challenge our understanding of our history. We invited James Turowski to unabashedly offer up a queer narrative, a narrative that is in full Bloom with a diverse array of unique flowers, just like the queer community itself. We also invited Bronwyn Butterfield to transform a vestibule into a strong reminder that our community roots go much further than the 150 year old colonial history. And as long as the sun keeps shining, we may let our attachment to this land guide our cultural exploration. Both artists practice art mediums that are not as often granted public spaces. They have found a unique way to transfer beading and embroidery into public art pieces for all to experience, and we couldn’t be more proud to be the canvass upon which their art speaks loudly, thoughtfully and beautifully.
We would also like to thank our sponsors for supporting this vision. Without you, we would not have been able to embark into this adventure and properly support the artists. We would also like to express gratitude to Charlotte Nolin, an icon of the Manitoba Two Spirit community, who shared her wisdom at the official unveiling of Vesti_art.
All photos credit of Mike Peters
A vamp for my cápán Bronwyn Butterfield french vintage glass beads, true-cut Indian beads, miyuki seed beads and Czech seed beads on melton wool, photographed and printed onto vinyl. 2021
“A vamp for my cápán” is to commemorate my dad’s grandmother and my cápán, Sarah McLeod of Norway House. The finished piece is my interpretation of her original pattern. My hope for the mural is to share beadwork with everyone, bringing together passersby who are seeing and experiencing beadwork for the first time in their lives, and our relations who can relate and see themselves within beaded pieces. As a fourth generation beadworker, I feel it is my duty to honour and survive our family’s traditions.
Find out more about Bronwyn on her website here:
Bronwyn’s work can be seen in-person on the corner of Arthur St. and Bannatyne Ave. in Winnipeg MB, Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Metis Nation
Queer In Bloom
embroidery thread, fabric, resin, wood
My artwork challenges the expectations of tradition and contemplates queer issues surrounding craft and identity. In my current practice, I work primarily in textiles and ceramics. Coming from a background in printmaking, I am attracted to process-based craft mediums that allow for the repetition of symbol, form, and image.
As a queer artist my work is always personal and often political in nature. Queer people have to fight and search for representation in popular media or make our own media that represents us. It comes from this need to see myself in media and in art that I create the art that I do. By adding my creative voice to the current queer contemporary art conversation, I aim to provide this representation.
Queer in Bloom is about coming into your own and blossoming as a queer individual, whatever that may look like. Each person requires the right conditions to come to terms with and be comfortable with their identity and go from seed, to bud, to bloom. Throughout history flowers have had many different meanings to many different groups of people, but there is a lesser-known queer reading of flowers that provides insight into the history and mythology of queer people. In my artistic practice I reference these floral symbols to signal to other queer people that this art is queer, although it may not look it at first glance, much as a Victorian gentleman would signal to other men his queerness by wearing a green carnation on his lapel.
The resin domes represent a way of “preserving” the embroidered blooms and act as a curio cabinet of sorts, displaying, and visually amplifying these gathered specimens of queer myth and symbolism. Furthering the historical connection of the symbolism of these works and alluding to the way many queer people are still seen more as curiosities, strange things to be looked at from afar, than actual people. Queer people have always existed and will continue to persevere through the strife and struggles that are put before us. The culmination of this work is a celebration of queer identity and queer history through the symbolism of flowers.
As previously mentioned, a carnation dyed green signified homoeroticism and aestheticism, which was popularized by Oscar Wilde in the late 1800s. In 1892 Wilde had one of the actors and many of his friends wear green carnations on their lapels to the opening night of his play “Lady Windemere’s Fan”. This led to Wilde and his friends wearing a green carnation on their lapel as a subtle way to identify each other. It is thought that because it was a (natural) flower dyed an unnatural colour it was hinting at “unnatural” same-sex love, which was illegal at the time and was considered highly “unnatural” and dangerous.
In Greek myth Hyacinthus was a beloved of the god Apollo and was struck down by Zephyrus, the west wind, who also loved Hyacinthus and was jealous of the pair. Zephyrus had decided that if he could not have Hyacinthus as a lover, then Apollo would not have him either. Apollo could not save Hyacinthus’ life from the mortal would, but he transformed his body into a beautiful flower to immortalize his beauty. Hyacinthus later came to be seen as a patron of homoerotic love.
As a pair to the hyacinth, the marigold has always been associated with the sun, often called “the herb of the sun”, relating to Apollo who is the god of the sun. This bloom symbolizes, passion, creativity, and despair or grief over the loss of love. Marigolds were often used as an offering to the gods across several religions around the world. I chose this flower to symbolize Apollo and his love for Hyacinthus because of the meaning of the marigold, as well as it’s association with the sun.
The pansy is symbolic of love, passion, remembrance, and reflection. By the late nineteenth century, the pansy had become, primarily in England and North America, a signifier of homoerotic love. And in the early to mid twentieth century “pansy” became a derogatory term for an effeminate gay man. The word, and flower, were later reclaimed by radical gay men in the 1970s as a positive symbol of gay love. In the 1920s and 30s drag performers were often referred to as “pansy performers” because of their colourful clothing.
The rose is a well-known symbol of beauty, love, and passion and is often gifted between couples of all genders and sexualities to show their love for another. Though it also has more specific queer meanings as well. The rose is associated in Greek mythology with many deities linked to same-sex intimacy or transgender identity such as Adonis, Aphrodite, Dionysus, and Eros. The rose was also often given by the Greek lover to his beloved as a courting gift, thus the rose came to represent the eromenos (beloved). As a symbol of Aphrodite, roses, along with violets and other flowers and herbs, were woven into garlands and worn by the women of Sappho’s thiasos (spiritual house) on the island of Lesbos. In medieval alchemy the rose became symbolic of androgyny or gender transition. In Middle Eastern and later in European and Western symbolism the rosebud became a signifier of the anus and anal intercourse. In twentieth-century lesbian symbolism, the rose signifies the vagina and love between women, as evidenced in the writings of Gertrude Stein, Judy Grahn, and other prominent woman-loving writers of the time.
Saffron is symbolic of healing, nobility, passion, and magic. Throughout many cultures saffron was an important ingredient in magic. As a spice it was often used in special cakes made to cause one person to fall in love with another. As a dye, it was used to colour garments. In Greco-Roman times saffron was a colour normally worn by women, but “womanish saffron” was also attributed to Crocus, a male youth with whom the god Hermes fell in love and was further associated with male gender variance and homoeroticism. It was also a colour often worn by the gender variant, or transgendered, priests and followers of Heracles (on the isle of Cos), or Dionysus. In the pre-Islamic Middle Eastern world, saffron was considered a powerful aphrodisiac and was employed in lesbian lovemaking.
Violets are commonly associated with lesbian love and were often incorporated into garlands, along with other flowers, worn by the poet Sappho and the women of her thiasos, or spiritual household, on the island of Lesbos. In the European Middle Ages, violets signified loyalty and were exchanged by friends and lovers in the springtime. In the twentieth century, violets, and their colour (a light purple, or lavender) came to be associated with effeminacy and male homosexuality in Western Europe, North America, Guatemala, and elsewhere.
Jame’s work can be seen in-person on the corner of King St. and Bannatyne Ave. in Winnipeg MB, Treaty 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Metis Nation