The Calgary Gay History Project recently had the pleasure of meeting two engaging queer artists: Mike Hooves and Ryan Danny Owen, who are both working at Arts Commons in the RBC Emerging Visual Artists program. Arts Commons is hosting an artist reception this Friday, March 1st from 7-10 PM which is free and open to the public.
We know Mike’s work as an animator and filmmaker but at Arts Commons, they are working on a dynamic portraiture project that is recording the lives of LGBTQ2 Calgarians – in felt marker! Colourful and intimate, these portraits are an archive of prairie queer identity in 2019. The portrait sitters Mike has chosen challenge cis-gender, homonormative identities, expanding the edges of our queer umbrella.
In conversation with Mike, we talked about our shared goal of claiming queer space in the public realm. Mike makes that claim viscerally, by creating artwork cross-legged in the window of the Lightbox Studio, just inches from the public passing by, who often stop for long looks.
Ryan Danny Owen is haunted by queer history. Their artistic practice reflects on identity, loss, desire, and emotion. Charming and precocious, Ryan uses retro gay male pornography as a launch pad for inspiration. Including, notably, a Calgary Stampeder named Blaine Lamoureux who was kicked off the football team in the 70s for posing naked in a gay porn magazine.
Their residency titled, Come Find Me, includes a series of 21 posters developed through a process of automatic writing poetry. When I visited Ryan in the Ledge Gallery, there were words everywhere – on walls, on the floor – in dripping ink, pregnant with references to Calgary’s queer history. These posters are going up in the gallery as well as on the streets of the city. Sites of queer history are being marked and remarked on in this process. The posters perhaps are as ephemeral as the former gay bars are in our memories.
Mike and Ryan will be part of an artist talk beginning at 7:45 PM during the evening reception. We hope to see you there!