London based artist Paul Harfleet has been planting pansies at sites of homophobia & transphobia for nearly 15 years. Known as The Pansy Project his work has blossomed with international visits to Ottawa, Stavanger, New York and closer to home; St Helens as part of this years Homotopia Festival throughout 2019.
The Pansy Project’s most recent manifestation is the specially designed pansy seed packs for Hudson Valley Seed Company, renowned for their collaborations with artists the operation based in Accord, New York invited Paul Harfleet to explore the symbolism of the pansy for their annual Artist Seed Packs.Paul Harfleet is not only a photographer of his micro-memorials, he is also an accomplished designer and illustrator as demonstrated in his recent book Pansy Boy. His painting skills could also be seen this September at the Nuart Festival in Stavanger. When it became apparent no pansy plants were available, his only option was to paint pansies at locations of homophobic hate crime, rather than his usual planting of the flowers where attacks have occurred.
The artwork places the pansy at the centre of the design, amongst established emblems of the LGBTQ+ community. Acting as an ‘architectural’ backdrop is the pink triangle, initially intended as a badge of shame in Nazi Germany, the mark distinguished those imprisoned as homosexuals. In the 1980s, it’s meaning was subverted and revived as a symbol of protest against homophobia most notably by the Act Up movement. The Silence = Death poster become the defining image for ACT UP, an organization created to fight for visibility and an end to the AIDS crisis.
Illustrated ribbons show the evolution of Gilbert Baker’s rainbow flag, recently developed to include people of colour in Philadelphia. The Trans Pride flag that represents the battles of the Trans movement designed by Monica Helms is also depicted. The message “Equality for All” completes the design and emphasises the need for inclusivity in the fight for equality for all sexualities and gender expressions.
The Pansy Project has marked hate crime around the world in over 300 locations from flippant comments to violent murders of gay men and trans people. The artist hopes that the seed pack will introduce the concept of The Pansy Project to wider audiences outside the LGBTQ+ community and hopes to continue to raise awareness of his work to combat homophobia and transphobia in all its forms.