Persians are cinnamon-bun-like pastries smothered in a thick gooey layer of pink icing. They have become an integral part of the identity of my hometown and are legendary in their following. Although they can only be found in Thunder Bay, Persians are celebrated near and far by former residents of the city, myself included. A series of 10 (so far!) large-scale drawings, my Persianland project is first and foremost a tribute to the community in which I was born and raised… Thunder Bay!
Persianland is also my response to a multitude of letters I have collected over the years, regarding the colour pink and GLBTQ issues, from the online edition of Thunder Bay’s newspaper, The Chronicle Journal, and the online Thunder Bay media outlet, TBNewswatch. Here is a sample:
“The Boys In Pink
Pink/Blue day was held May 15 in all public elementary and high schools. I am very concerned about this day being promoted to dress in pink for boys. What is society telling these children in elementary school, to dress in blouses and wear hair pieces all day? I can see it being acceptable in high schools, but not at the elementary level. Try arm bands instead. I was appalled and surprised that child protection agencies did nothing to prevent this one.
— Amanda P”
This begs the question: Why is it acceptable to eat pink doughnuts, yet remain threatening for a boy to wear pink clothing?
In response, I have created images that depict scenes which, like the Persian, are iconic representations of Thunder Bay.
The scenes chosen are similar to those which were once found on cheerie vacation postcards.
Utilizing the colours of Persians—the pastry and the icing—I am painting the town pink.
The popularity of the Persian in the Thunder Bay region gives these images a pop-art sensibility, enabling the work to engage an audience beyond the local LGBTQ community. Although Persians are also available with vanilla or chocolate icing, it is the pink Persian that remains most popular. It is my deduction, therefore, that there is no reason for anyone in the city to fear the colour pink, or anything associated with it. What could be less threatening than a doughnut? In fact, the pink part is everyone’s favorite part—the icing.
The roll of pastry in protest
The political act of pieing was popularized in early cinematic works of Laurel & Hardy. In the early 1970s Thomas King Forcade, the founder of High Times magazine, pied the Chairman of the President’s Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, and Aron Kay pied singer and anti-gay-rights activist Anita Bryant in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1977.
My “postcard” images (which are actually quite a bit larger than postcards…) are a light-hearted pie-in-the-face—in this case, a Persian-in-the-face—response to the hostility found in many of the letters published in the local media. Please note that not all of the letters were hostile; there was also a number of enlightened and informed letters, which is why I am taking a nonchalant approach to this project.
The work in this project is created with an intended sense of the absurd and is decidely not hostile. Perhaps this subtlety will reach someone who doesn’t understand the objectives of the GLBTQ rights movement, someone who may not quite “get it” while they are looking at the work, but will provide much food for thought upon reflection.
It is my hope that in painting the town pink, people will join their friends and neighbours in my celebration of not only a city I love, but the colour pink.
More Local Flavour
Expressions, like “Friends of Dorothy” and the wearing of green carnations, used as signals to those in the know, have come and gone. Locally, “The Kakabeka Falls Fun Club” was at one time an expression used in public radio announcements for social gatherings of the GLBTQ community. Now, with this project, will “Do you like Persians?” become part of the gay subcultural lexicon of Port Arthur and Fort William?
Well, I think almost everyone likes Persians!