Drew Pardy’s That’s Hot
Photo by Shireen Merchant
That’s Hot by Drew Pardy
Reviewed by August Carrigan
I walk into Eastern Edge’s Rogue Gallery, where Drew Pardy’s exhibit, That’s Hot, runs until October 14, 2023. It’s 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, and besides a lone couple touring the main gallery, I have the place to myself. The Rogue Gallery is a smaller inner room inside the main gallery, and the space fits this particular exhibit wonderfully as it adds to the coziness of the materials inside. Entering the space, I see quilts of various sizes on each wall. At first glance, they are beautiful on their own. But, as a sign reads at the entrance, viewers can touch and play with the quilts, and the show’s tactility adds to the experience.
As Pardy’s (she/they) bio states, “They use radical silliness as a vessel for change – exploring themes of labour, feminism, and queerness. This play is a way of taking care.” And I feel taken care of in this space. Pardy explores queer identity through playfulness and joy and through these works that embody warmth, care, and safety. For me, the colour palettes of each piece fit beautifully together, and looking around the room, the quilts seem to stitch together a biography, one I can’t help but relate to my own experience.
The first quilt I look at is like a black fire. This one can’t come off the wall but is made with shiny, sparkly material. It conveys something burning and eternal that can’t be touched but is magnificent. The “A Little Softer” quilt is more playful. The words are stitched in white chunky letters with pale greens and blues in the background. Ladybugs and bees adorn the rest of the quilt and remind me of my early childhood, a time when I needed softness more than anything. This piece hangs on hooks and can easily be removed from the wall.
A colorful quilt, also in the shape of a flame, with smaller quilted flames climbing up the wall, reminds me of the beginning of teenagehood. I see the bright, vibrant colours as depicting a queerness that knows itself but is just a spark of who the viewer might become. The larger “Hot Mess” quilt with its reds, pinks, strawberries, roses, and skulls reminds me of my mid to late teenage years when everything was so much. I was dealing with who I am and who I am attracted to. First crushes. First, big loves. Things that seemed so incredibly important at the time overshadowed everything else. This piece, too, can be taken off the wall, and I love the idea of being wrapped in that feeling for a time. It’s as if the artist is saying:your past self was probably going through a lot, so why not take a moment to hold your current self and give them comfort?
The smaller, colourful quilt with the words “Tender Chaos” continues the journey of growing and trying new things. What are our late teens/early twenties, if not a tender chaos? Lastly, the large “Platonic Romance” quilt, with its blues, white, and teals, feels like a young adult finding their chosen family, realizing we can choose who to be surrounded by based on how we are treated and what makes us feel safe and secure. Being queer isn’t a choice, but who we surround ourselves with can be. These quilts in the small gallery with comfy furniture are a calming and lovely experience that allows me to consider my queer journey. We have seen a growing fear spreading about queerness this past year, so finding time for play and silliness can be difficult for many of us in the queer community. Standing in a room surrounded by colorful quilts I can take down and wrap around myself gives me pause. Pardy’s work prioritizes our community and queer joy, a powerful form of resistance against rising anti-queer fear-mongering. This exhibit shows the importance of silliness, play, comfort, and care. If you need to remember these things, check out this exhibit and find yourself in the folds.
Photo by Shireen Merchant
August Carrigan is a spoken-word poet from St. John’s NL. They have performed at events such as the Vagina Monologues, FemFest, SlutWalk, and The Women’s Work Festival and have poems published in The St. John’s Women’s Centre Almanac, Coven Editions’ deathcap no.13, Salt Pages Winter 2022 zine, Ink & Marrow Issue 1, and Moody the Zine. Their self-published chapbook “The Mechanics of Grieving,” can be purchased through their Instagram @windblownpoet.