When I was invited to submit something for the What is love? Group Show at Ingleside Gallery, I knew I needed to create something about queer love. When I think of queer love, I don't just think of my husband. I think of my love for queer peoples, and how expressing my love for my brethren boldly, loudly, publicly, and zealously is such a radical act. Especially when queer and love are often only thought of in relation to sex and sexual compatibility.
My thoughts and desires went immediately to Crystal Mason with whom I co-founded Queering Dreams. I knew that if we practiced the practice of our co-creation we would make something neither of us could conceive individually.
We set time to dream, shared them with one another, and discovered a conceptually palindromic phrase: what makes queer love possible / what queer love makes possible. This phrase immediately conjured images of portals, of no beginnings and no ending, of an endless loop.
Crystal recalled a QUEERSPELL workshop Ash Tré Phillips and I facilitated in November, and how we used a zine to demonstrate a endless looping portal through time and space. The zine is also a form that can be used as a template, as something that others can add to, amend, destroy, or discard. It is incredibly utilitarian and oh so queer. (Have you checked out the Queer Zine Archive Project?) So we decided to use the zine as the form.
Upon discovery of the phrase & form, we brainstormed additional aesthetics. Crystal has an delightful coloring practice that yields abstract images that feel contemplative and relaxed. Grayscale printing is how the zines will be produced, so I suggested Crystal take photos of their coloring and then turn them grayscale so that the highlights and shadows came out to their delight. These became the portals.
Side one of the zine became the endless looping portals. When I looked at them, I realized we needed some additional loose "categorization" or some way to help seed people's imaginations. Crystal and I checked in and came up with art / media, economics / politics, relations / sexualities, and dreams / death. Again, looking over the zine, we wanted to offer our own reflections as a way to spur further dreams, introspections, and wanderings.
The second side of the zine became a space for the cover, a general overview, bios, and space for some additional context / content. QR codes help make things more accessible, so I decided to use them to link to the digital version, more information about the process of co-creation, and where folx can join Crystal & me online.
As I designed the cover, I thought about love and the heart symbol. Inverted it looks like a butt. I 🖤 that. So I began playing around with the negative spaces in the Q, R, O. I noticed the v was a heart. I just kept playing until I had a cover I loved. Crystal loved it too.
The finishing touch came in the form of some hand lettering of our own reflections on what makes queer love possible / what queer love makes possible. I know that people's handwriting is intimate and vulnerable. So many people are self conscious about their penmanship, their spelling, their turn of phrase. They've been told by way too many people that it's messy, they can't spell, they'll just never get any better, and they've internalized those messages. For me, I like adding in the messy, the misspelled, the slightly off turn of phrase because it means others can see themselves within the art / the text / the composition.
I asked Crystal to handwrite some responses that I could trace & include. Reluctantly, they agreed. When the whole zine was composed, Crystal was amazed to see their handwriting in the zine. Even on an opposite coast, Crystal's handwriting (presence) is physically present within a zine being printed in San Francisco.
These are the kinds of details I pay attention to when creating. They make things oh so much more human and humane. They keep me grounded in the plurealities (yes, I made that up; it is a combination of plurality & realities) of peoples rather than trying to narrow everything into a singular narrative or experience.
They are what make me Queerly Complex.