Have / Hold
Produced collaboratively by Wynne Neilly and Kyle Lasky
Have / Hold is a series of self-portraits challenging traditional narratives and stigma around masculine intimacy.
We met at art school in 2009. We were two young, butch women, and found kinship in our masculine identities and a mutual investment in documenting the queer experience. We transitioned in tandem, and supported each other through the complicated and non-linear process of reimagining our identities and relearning how to see ourselves and be seen by others. The ease with which we express our closeness is built on a lifetime of socially accepted, affectionate “female friendships”. We took this type of closeness and kept it with us.
Years later, as two cis-presenting men —and more specifically “men who date women”—our relationship is an anomaly among representations of male friendship. When we are together, when we take photos together, when we interact publicly (online or in-person), it is with an intimacy people are only comfortable seeing between lovers, and we are assumed to be such. This tension has always interested us, and we’ve been intentionally contributing to an archive of our relationship, to continue in perpetuity. We balance on a thin line between platonic and sexual intimacy; an intimacy always ripe with romance. We create scenes in which the viewer would feel very familiar seeing a couple framed – a lazy morning in bed, getting ready for a night out, changing to swim, taking in a sunset on vacation – scenarios in which couples typically perform their relationship, but all of which actually escape that defining edge of proof. Our trans (and non-male) identities bring a nuanced component to the work, further complicating the homoerotic imagery.
While gay and queer representation in mainstream media increases, there remains a lack of exposure to–or celebration of–platonic “same-sex” intimacy. The images in our project frustrate an erotic expectation while creating space for a new truth—a representation of platonic intimacy that has not been seen before.
This body of work has been included in the following exhibitions:
2021 - We Buy Gold, Gallery TPW, Toronto, Canada
2019 - The Gender Conspiracy, The Art Gallery of Burlington, Canada
The artists would like to acknowledge the support of the the Ontario Arts Council in exhibiting this body of work for We Buy Gold.
Polaroids courtesy of Kale Chesney
Installation images shot by Toni Hafkenscheid