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Thursday 8th February 2024
As part of our upcoming Unicorn exhibition at Perth Museum, we have commissioned 6 artists who identify as queer or part of the LGBTQIA+ community to produce new Unicorn-themed artworks exploring the theme of ‘Unicorn hunting in 2023’. We asked each of our 6 artists to write a blog from their perspective about the process and idea behind their unicorn piece, and what the unicorn means to them in 21st-century Scotland.
Unicorn, the debut exhibition from Perth Museum, explores the rich significance of this beloved mythical creature from antiquity to the present day, through art, science, social movements, and popular culture. The unicorn’s enduring presence throughout history and its role as a symbol of Scotland’s changing heritage and identity will be explored through iconic loans from around the world, and interactive displays. The commissioned artworks in this exhibition explore the unicorn as a modern symbol of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This blog is written by our second commissioned artist Alex Hayward.
Originally from Devon, I moved to Edinburgh in 2016 to partake in the BA Painting programme at Edinburgh College of Art. Since graduating, I have exhibited across the UK and received such recognition as the RSA Friends Award, the Artist’s Collecting Society Studio Award, and the University of Edinburgh Purchase Prize. Significant commissions have come from renowned choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne, and from the RSA for their exhibition ‘Pandemic’.
My work for ‘Hunting the Unicorn’ explores the challenges of living rurally as an LGBTQIA+ person. From open prejudice, violence, and abuse, to microaggressions and oblivious ignorance, rural queerphobia can culminate in queer people feeling isolated, othered, or targeted by their local community. Even indirect actions and speech can subtextually or unintentionally contribute to experiences of minority stress.
I now live in the city but am conscious of the tendency to regard queer culture as primarily urban. But for the countless Dorothys who don’t or won’t have the opportunity or desire to relocate, Kansas must be a safe and fulfilling place. My work is rooted in my own experiences and reinforced by ‘Further Out: The Scottish LGBT Rural Equality Report’ (2020).
To explore these issues, I’ve incorporated the unicorn into the sign of an imagined village. Village signs, arms, and heraldry form an incredibly rich visual history stretching back to the medieval village cross. They often depict features or scenes from a parish’s landscape past or culture, with sometimes objectively bizarre, horrible, or gruesome incidents being detached from reality and sanitised into quaint emblems.
Responding to the specific brief of integrating a plastic horse head was initially baffling and incredibly challenging. But it has forced me to expand my practice beyond drawing and painting and into three dimensions. I’m so proud to be part of Perth Museum’s historic opening, and would like to thank the panel, curators, and installation team for their support.