Today I have been down at Colonnade House, a gallery in Worthing town centre. Three weeks ago a double glazing van crashed into the gallery, so for a moment we were worried it wouldn’t be possible to continue. The irony of it being a double glazing van which has crashed through the window, is I am sure not lost on anyone. However today we were down at the gallery setting up for the weeklong exhibit which starts tomorrow and I was amazed how the gallery team have worked to reclaim the space. It’s very cool, and the team has also been incredibly supportive and kind.
Being in the space together with the extraordinary Amy Sutton who has pulled this all together was of course delightful. She has been an extraordinary cheerleader in pulling this together, and has spent so much time supporting us all to get to the gallery. Collecting art at her house, driving around Worthing to pick up art and artists. She is a powerhouse of creative force in her own right, and she uses all those inspiration muscles to lift other artists up, it’s really great.
And I definitely needed her unshakeable support today. Everyday I share artwork online but there is a special vulnerability that comes with exhibiting in a real space. Alongside the normal pre-exhibit anxiety there is an added nervousness that comes with doing something so openly prideful in the centre of the town where I live. I am not ashamed to be a queer artist, but it feels exposing to be so open.
I am attracted to men and women, I have had relationships with both men and women, and I have experienced mixed reactions to that. From both gay and straight people I have heard I am a slut, that I am greedy, that I can’t make up my mind, that what I am feeling is wrong, unnatural, ungodly, that I am just experimenting with men, or women, that I am too queer or not queer enough. And while I know in my core, none of these things are true, I still feel that bubble of fear that I will have to face that again. It’s taken me years to feel comfortable in my own skin and my own mind, Pride is something I am still working to achieve.
I know that it is unlikely that I will experience ignorance or hate in my hometown, I still worry someone might damage the sign outside. At least we don’t have to worry that someone will put a brick through the window, since someone already drove a van through it! I think it is because of this fear that I feel this exhibit is more important than any of the other work I have experience.
Seeing the beautiful, and strong and brave art go up on the walls has helped bolster my feelings. Together we have created a gorgeous little space. While I still feel a little shy and scared and vulnerable, I also feel hopeful and excited. I am so grateful to Amy and the Colonnade team (particularly Jo who has helped us hang and tweak everything all day) for supporting us. Together they have created such an awesome, positive space for local artists. Coming off the back of a year of lockdown, it feels very important to have these community spaces.
So if you are in the area please come say at Colonnade House, 47 Warwick St, Worthing BN11 3DH. Open 10am-5pm Tuesday 6th July – Saturday 10th. Amy will be there every day as our Paladin of poetry and paint and I will be around on Saturday.