An Initial Artist Statement...
...On the Sacred Love/Sacred Lives mixed-media art project
Reading time: About 7 minutes
Sacred Love/Sacred Lives is a mixed-media embroidery art project I began at the end of 2022. The idea for it came to me from a variety of sources and moments, at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed with grief and rage due to the bigoted, regressive laws conservatives have been passing throughout the United States and calling for in Canada and the UK. As someone who has been a resident of all three countries, and as a genderqueer drag monarch and long-time activist, it is disheartening and infuriating to see so many hard won rights being rolled back. It hurts to watch my QILT2BAG+ kin’s lives threatened by government policies. It is enraging to see emboldened hate-mongering crowds using “think of the children” to justify book bans and to restrict gender-affirming care.1 It is terrifying to watch the United States’ conservative stacked court of so-called “justices” work to roll back protections of bodily autonomy and threaten marriage equality.
It is also hard to watch, as Covid continues to kill and disable people at an alarming rate, how quickly members of the public will concede to eugenicist policies about whose life is worth living. Disabled people, many of whom are immune-compromised, make up 16% of the global population, or about 1.3 billion people. This number may seem high if you operate under the misunderstanding that disability is fixed, visible, and basically wheelchair users, but I assure you, it is likely higher than that. Not every disabled person is on benefits or able to access benefits, which is a primary way data on disability is tracked. Often disability doesn’t go reported out of the safety concerns disabled folks have for themselves. Not every disabled person is safe to disclose their disability, for fear of how it may impact their housing, employment, or personal relationships.2 Disability includes cancer patients, a majority of people aged seventy or older, Deaf and blind folks, people with limb differences, cognitive and developmental differences, and people living with chronic illnesses, including the growing number of people with long Covid.
Conservatives lawmakers, ableist governments, and homophobic and transphobic bigots would have us believe that queer and trans and disabled people are an ‘insignificant minority’ or that the life of anyone with a disability must barely be worth living. But I can say a majority of my community is made up of disabled queer folks and our lives are glorious, wonderful things. Most of the people I know live vibrant, compassionate, creative lives. We share resources and tips for navigating systems built to deny us care. We take care of each other, we uplift each other, we celebrate our talents and skills. We work in solidarity and we embrace the gorgeous intersectional multiplicity of humanity we all represent. We are artists and writers and performers. We are active community members, organizers, activists, and educators.
We are precious children of the universe.
And our lives are sacred.
This series is a celebration of that sacredness.
It’s a celebration of our joy, our love, our lives.
I began as an idea for just six pieces, but it has evolved into a commitment to make 108.3
Over the coming months I’ll share artist statements about pieces in this series as a way to continue to spread the joy and love and care I experience as a disabled queermo. I also invite any artists who would like to collaborate to reach out. I have done several collaborations already, and every one of them has been a great source of nurturing and joy for both me and the collaborator.
Don’t let anyone tell you your life and who you love and how you love is anything less than sacred.
Queer Lives Are Sacred, Teacup Design
Mixed-media: Acrylic paint, washi paper, stick on rhinestones and embroidery floss
When I think of queer culture, of the things about being queer that I love the most, community, is always the top of the list. The connection, the sense of belonging, the incredible love that comes from chosen family—these are things that have saved my life more than once. I am also a big tea drinker. Tea is a source of comfort, ease, and rest for me.4 Thus my queer identity, and queer kin, are as comforting as a cuppa.
I had fun incorporating the overarching flags of the queer community into the piece, the rainbow of the cup, the trans flag colours on the saucer, and the Intersex flag as the teabag tag.
Disabled Lives are Sacred, Cherry Blossom Tree
Mixed-media: Marker and embroidery floss
A twisted blossoming cherry tree is a beautiful image, much loved across many cultures, replicated in all sorts of mediums. But a tree does not grow this way unless it has experienced significant damage. A limb lost means a tree must grow in a different, unexpected way. This is so the tree can counter-balance the loss and take pressure off the roots that already have so much to do in addition to holding it in place.
I think of this imagery as an excellent representation for disability. So much about disability is learning to adjust, adapt, and find different ways of growing outside of what society thinks of as “normal.” It’s how we find community, a whole network of people who understand the challenges of navigating health care and social systems that only see disability as a flaw, a mistake, something to be fixed.
The roots of this imagery are a representation of the incredible strength of a lineage of disabled ancestors working to make the world more accessible. The blossoms represents the growing, blooming Disability Justice Movement. The trunk, twisted from one direction to the next, is a reminder of disability wisdom. Disability wisdom is mutual aid, advice swapping, cross-disability solidarity, and support for navigating a hostile medical system or a rebellious body.
Our lives are sacred not despite our neurodivergence, limb differences, chronic illnesses, chronic pain, and use of mobility devices, but because of them.
Trans Lives are Sacred, Butterflies and Hollyhocks
Mixed-media: Marker, origami butterflies and embroidery floss
I knew I would use butterflies in at least one piece accompanying the phrase Trans Lives are Sacred. The butterfly has long represented transition, change, and growth and so it’s little surprise that trans folk embrace this magical pollinator as a symbol of trans identity and self-discovery.
I chose a stitched hollyhock to accompany the origami butterflies because in addition to being very attractive to butterflies, hollyhocks often symbolise life, ambition, and abundance. Purple hollyhocks have been used to represent both transition and royalty. The trans community embodies all these things—especially considering the role Drag has had in many trans folks lives.
This piece represents the kind of thriving I long to see for all my trans kin. From the abundant flowers to the bright blue sky, to the butterfly moving beyond the barrier of the embroidery hoop, my hope with this piece is to convey the vibrancy trans folk bring to the world simply for being. To be trans is to represent possibility beyond false binaries and therefore, a possibility of freedom of all people from fixed ideas of gender and sex.
And therefore life saving.
The fight for marriage equality is far from over as many disabled folks risk losing their benefits if they marry, regardless of whether their partner has an income that can support two people. It’s totally legal to pay disabled people less than a living wage. Also, being disabled is expensive. If you don’t want to jump through hoops or for some reason don’t qualify for benefits, you have to buy all your own mobility aids and pay for services like massage therapy, therapy, phsycio etc. And for the record, no one should have to “work for a living.”
This is a Buddhist thing. :)
This is, perhaps, my English ancestry coming through.