Jay Pahre

Flipping the Island

Guard Hairs
Copper coated steel wire, gauze
Dimensions variable

Guard Hairs, (Detail), 2019

Artist Statement

My current body of work, Flipping the Island, centers around transness and queerness as they relate to the nonhuman, navigated specifically through the myriad ecologies present on the island of minong, also known as isle royale. Drawing from the way the ecologies on this island flip over on themselves, I speculate through art making what kinds of transformations might be possible when taking the ability to move, shift, or change radically, as a given for navigating precarity, rather than a distant possibility.
In Guard Hairs, one of the pieces from this body of work, these ecologies are touched on through the interrelatedness of settler copper mining and ongoing reintroduction of wolves to the island. This process of reintroduction reached a tipping point when, after decades of inbreeding and warming temperatures isolating the island from surrounding wolf populations, the last three wolves who could sustain a population on the island drowned in a copper mine. Approaching this through guard hairs, the part of the animal’s fur which protects the animal from weather and UV rays, as well as signals affective shifts, I query these confluences of ecological crisis, tipping over, and transformation. Guard Hairs was made by cutting, folding and hooking pieces of steel-coated copper wire through gauze over and over. The repetitive, process-based approach, done with material which signals wounding and extraction as well as being precarious in and of itself, speaks to piecing out speculations that hinge on trans and queer formations of un-and-re-becoming, intra/action, and erotics.
Nestled aside his studio work, my research and art practice is often guided by walking. Walking is fundamental to my practice as a way of navigating lived experience and generating long-term place and encounter driven exploration alongside a committed studio practice. My studio practice is responsive and often process-oriented, with engagements of speculation, uncertainty, and precarity informing how I move through making.

Jay Pahre is a queer and trans settler artist, writer and cultural worker currently based on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Weaving between drawing, sculpture and writing, his work queries trans and queer nonhuman ecologies as they intersect with the human. Originally from the midwestern US, Pahre has turned his work back toward the shifting ecologies of the Great Lakes and Great Plains regions. Recently, this has been navigated with a focus on the myriad ecologies present on the island of minong or isle royale, an island located in northwestern lake superior. Pulling from personal lived experience of walking the island, shifting geographies, and queer/trans ecologies, he pieces apart the moments when these different trajectories begin to fold in on themselves and open other ways of being, knowing, and moving. The uses of metal, electricity, and heat has been instrumental in his work to think through conductive and transforming ecologies. Leaning on these moments of conductivity and transformation, his work ferrets out alternative formations and futures of what queer and trans ecologies of being might look like while slipping through moments of temporal, embodied, and environmental precarity. He received his BFA in painting and BA in East Asian studies in 2014, and his MA in East Asian studies from the University of Illinois in 2017. He went on to complete his MFA in visual art at the University of British Columbia in 2020. His work has been exhibited across the US and Canada. He was selected for the 2020 Transgender Studies Chair Fellowship at the University of Victoria, as well as the Helen Belkin Memorial Scholarship (2020) and Fred Herzog Award in Visual Art (2019) at the University of British Columbia.