The Traveling 'Queer Ecology Hanky Project,' Opening at Zygote Press Friday, Speaks to the Diversity of Queer Experience

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click to enlarge The Traveling 'Queer Ecology Hanky Project,' Opening at Zygote Press Friday, Speaks to the Diversity of Queer Experience
Photo courtesy of The Queer Ecology Hanky Project

Biology, environment, sexuality and the framework of queer theory unite and intersect in 'The Queery Ecology Hanky Project,' a traveling exhibition opening at Zygote Press (1410 E. 30th St.) this Friday, May 13, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Including more than 100 artist bandanas, the exhibition draws its inspiration from the gay hanky code, a traditional form of signaling one's sexual preference and interest that emerged in the 1970s and has since expanded beyond sexual preferences to include different identities, bodies and activities. The exhibition goes a step further, including plants and animals.

Organizers Vanessa Adams and Mary Tremonte reached out to intersecting networks of printmakers, artists, ecologists, zine makers and herbalists when choosing artists for the project. Adams and Tremonte share that ‘the full collection speaks to the diversity of queer experiences.’

“One summer day in southwestern Pennsylvania, we were picking chanterelles out in the woods,” explained Adams and Tremonte. “As we walked, we sifted through ideas—weighing possibilities for ways we could bring our love of mushrooms and the out-of-doors into our other work and life environments. Mushroom dinner party? Queer nature symposium? We settled on the hanky project—an idea first incubated with another artist collaborator Dalia Shevin—as an ideal starting point. As veteran hanky makers and bandana enthusiasts, we were excited about organizing a show of artist-made bandanas which could build upon and expand the original gay hanky code.”

Their interest in queer ecology began with Bruce Bagemihl’s encyclopedic and illustrated book Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity. The book explores the sexuality and gender attributes of 190 species of mammals and birds — “riding” spinner dolphins, long-term homosexual partnerings in black swans, large-scale orgies of bowhead whales.

They decided to bring their interests in the natural world and bandanas into the show while centering their project on queer ecology.

Sharing a few highlights, they wrote: “Amy Cousins’ bandana 'Mushroom Future' portrays a Schizophyllum commune, a mushroom with 36,000 unique mating partners. Summer Wood and Meg Houston feature Juniperus ashei as a trans plant ally, one who has been known to elude science by switching genders whenever they please. Devon Cohen’s hanky looks to the beauty and intricacy of slime molds, which are composed of many unicellular organisms that join together to make complex decisions as a united form. Andrea Narno’s hanky, which looks to the intimate and integral relationships between the yucca and the yucca moth, snails and the snail-pollinated plant Volvulopsis nummularium. Anna Wager envisions a future of intergenerational queer community nurturance as opposed to conflict, with Bathomet nursing a baby hyena, surrounded by their psychoactive plant and mushroom allies.”

Zygote Press gallery hours are Wednesdays 5-9 p.m., and Thursday, Fridays & Saturdays 12-4 p.m. There will be a closing party for the exhibition on Saturday, June 25, from 12-5 p.m. with an outdoor queer dance party afterward from 5 to 7 p.m.

As a side car to the exhibition, Zygote will host the Queer Print + Zine Fair on Saturday, June 18, from 12-4 p.m. and are still looking for participants. Interested parties may send a brief description and images of their work to Brittany M. Hudak, Senior Program Manager by May 31st.
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