Artist unveils 2SLGBTQ+ art installation in Halifax Common

‘Hopefully, a bit of you is expressed somewhere’, says queer artist Margot Durling

Margot Durling now has a permanent reminder of their chosen family.

Durling, a non-binary, transgender and queer artist, created an art piece titled Chosen Family for the Halifax Common. Dozens of people gathered at the North Park Street and Cogswell Road intersection on Monday for the official unveiling.

“Seeing yourself reflected in the built environment is a very powerful form of validation and belonging,” said Durling, who’s also a musician and designer.

“Especially when you’ve lived most of your life not seeing yourself reflected in the world. There is a significant difference between ‘all are welcome’ and ‘this space was created with you in mind.’”

The art piece includes five upright colourful steel posts with abstract gender symbols on top.

“It was important to me and to our community that these reflected both our joy and also our pain,” Durling said.

“For that reason, I made them bright and colourful but also upright like flag posts with heads held high bringing honour and dignity to our community and to those we have lost.”

The deconstructed symbols are meant to show a spectrum of gender identities.   Zarnigar Khan

Durling said many people on the internet, specifically “homophobic trolls,” were confused about the meaning of the symbols on top of the poles. The familiar gender symbols are abstracted on purpose to inspire people to learn more about different gender identities and symbols.

“Knowing that these people are online searching gender symbols and learning about that makes me deeply, deeply happy,” Durling said.

“Each symbol deconstructs and defies gender norms … It is meant to be whatever you see.”

Durling used black and brown colours to wrap the base and neck of the installations to symbolize previous Black and Indigenous gay rights activists. They intentionally did not use the classic rainbow for its use, citing pink washing, a term used to describe a marketing gimmick by corporations to be perceived as tolerant.

Carmel Farahbakhsh, executive director of Youth Project, delivered a short speech at Monday’s event.

“This is life-changing for many who don’t see themselves widely represented in power structures throughout their lives,” Farahbakhsh said.

“Chosen family is heart, future, home for so many. I know that youth will see this art and feel a reverberating resonance and feel seen.”

The art installation is a part of the city’s North Park intersection redesign, a project that has brought two new roundabouts and a few new art pieces to the Halifax Common.

The moment the new art installation was unveiled Monday.   Zarnigar Khan

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage highlighted the partnership of various organizations like the Youth Project and the importance of the Indigenous, 2SLGBTQ+ and the African Nova Scotian communities in the neighbourhood. HRM supports all communities and people are “free to celebrate their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Savage said.

Durling sees the installations as a backdrop for future rallies, marches, parades or even first dates.

At the end of the unveiling, Durling expressed gratitude for their chosen family.

“I hope this art brings hope to the world and reminds us of our continued fight for justice and equity.”

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