Painting his town queer: Johnnie Walker's multifaceted art shares new perspectives

Walker's enthralling presence may be what you'll notice first, but what you should be focusing on is his incredibly impressive portfolio — and his goals for representation.

'A lot of my work that I do as an artist is queer in a very obvious way'

(CBC Arts)

Johnnie Walker's enthralling presence may be what you'll notice first, but what you should be focusing on is his incredibly impressive portfolio.

A writer, director and performer, Johnnie is also a DJ and an all-around professional weirdo. He has written, directed, produced and starred in over 20 plays which have received rave reviews across the country from Now Magazine, CBC, The Edmonton Journal and The Calgary Herald. Most notably, his solo show Redheaded Stepchild has toured North America and was published last September by Playwrights Canada Press. It also won him the SummerWorks Emerging Artist Award in 2010.

"I think a lot of my work that I do as an artist is queer in a very obvious way," he says — like the all-male burlesque troupe he co-founded, BoylesqueTO. Since its formation in 2008, the troupe has performed all over the world and is still going strong. Its latest show Mo' Manada is currently on tour and will be part of the upcoming Edmonton Fringe Festival. When he's not busy writing the BoylesqueTO scripts, he hosts their shows — most recently playing Justin Trudeau for the troupe's Canada 150 show in Ottawa.

I want to find ways to break traditional conventions and queer the way that the story itself is told.- Johnnie Walker, performer

Working to tell stories from a new perspective is very important to Johnnie, as evidenced through plays like Scheherazade — an erotic satire inspired by the classical story 1001 Nights — and The Other Three Sisters — a twist on Chekhov's The Three Sisters. His latest play, Shove it Down My Throat, explores the true story of Luke O'Donovan, who's currently serving a ten year sentence for assault with a deadly weapon in Atlanta. The local media saw him as a maniac who went on a stabbing spree, but Luke claims he is the victim of a violent queer bashing who dared to fight back. With a hilarious ensemble cast, Johnnie examines Donovan's story in a non-linear, experimental format and tries to get to the truth. And in true Johnnie fashion, the presentation is just as bizarre as the story.

In this episode of Queer (Self) Portraits, the audience is treated to a glimpse of Johnnie's personality and spice. "I think there is a big difference between art that has queer content and art that comes from a queer perspective," he says. "[I want] to queer the way the story itself is told."

For more info on Johnnie, visit his website — and keep your eye out not only for his plays but his first short film, Saturn Devours, which is currently on the festival circuit.

Queer (Self) Portraits was born out of director Gabrielle Zilkha's participation in this year's 10X10 Photography Project. 10X10 is an annual art exhibit and book curated by James Fowler and produced each year to mark Pride Month. Each year, ten queer and trans photographers are selected to take portraits of ten queer and trans people whom they wish to celebrate for their contributions to the arts. Watch the full series here!

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