In time for Pride Toronto 2020, AGYU was excited to announce this new collaborative project which commissioned an artwork by the acclaimed Toronto-based artist Ness Lee. Lee’s work moves between drawing, painting, sculpture, and installation, through which they explore intimacy and self-love, creating space for vulnerability, discomfort, and acceptance.
Annually, AGYU, TBLGAY, and YFS join forces to commission an artist float for the Toronto Pride Parade. With the cancellation of that year’s Pride festivities, we re-imagined our collaboration, inviting artist Ness Lee to produce a participatory mural project for TBLGAY’s shared space. TBLGAY is a safer space on York University’s Keele campus for the queer and trans community. Run by a volunteer collective, it is a welcoming place with a social atmosphere and an ever-growing library of resources, books, and magazines. The mural will be envisioned by Lee and produced collectively with members of York University’s 2SLGBTQIAP+ communities. To coincide with the mural, AGYU also released a limited edition pin by Lee.
The mural, us as we are (2022), comes out of conversations between Lee and TBLGAY about queering space, and what it means, in the artist’s words, “to make space for selves and future selves.” For Lee, collectivity is at the core of this project and they have been developing creative approaches to allow for gathering and collaboration despite the pandemic precautions of physical distancing.
Lee intertwines historical occurrences with personal narratives to create tender and ethereal artworks. Their work has been featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, as well as numerous art galleries in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto. Lee has also participated in mural festivals across Canada and internationally in Hyderabad, India, and Cozumel, Mexico.
Various lockdowns, campus closures, and other pandemic-related complications extended this project over two years, with the mural being finished late winter 2022. Completed in consultation with the wider 2SLGBTQIAP+ community at York, including in-person sessions, jamboard collaborations, even a Discord-hosted Ask Me Anything with Ness Lee, the mural is now installed and awaiting the full return of students to the University campus later this year.
3 Jul 2011