If you were to squint at Lucas Morneau’s handmade hockey jerseys, they might look familiar: crew necks, raglan sleeves, a boxy fit designed to fit almost anyone. The colour combinations on the striped sleeves are retro but reassuringly sporty: red, white and navy; Kelly green and yellow; teal and white. None of this is unexpected, until you read the names of each team: The Gayside Gaylords, The Pasadena Pansies, The St. John’s Sissies, The Come by Chance Flamers….
These teams, named after towns in Newfoundland and Labrador, are represented by rug-hooked emblems that adorn each of the fourteen crocheted jerseys that make up the fictional Queer Newfoundland Hockey League. As a childhood hockey fan who grew up to be a trained visual artist and drag performer, Lucas started to question the conventions of speech tied to sport by the language of toxic masculinity.
“I wanted to highlight those pejoratives that are used in locker rooms and on the ice. People still use these words in everyday speech, not knowing that they have a history of homophobia and transphobia. Hockey has this culture where you have to be rough and macho,” said Lucas. “I like being masculine but there comes a point where we have to question if something is masculine, or if it is just aggressive.”
“I started to think that maybe I should pick up crochet, because crochet is a lot quicker than knitting, and it is much more free-form, allowing you to easily create 3D objects.”
During the year that Lucas began to explore textiles and drag in their art practice, they were forced out of the closet to their family when one of their costume pieces, a corset, was shipped to their parents’ house in error.
The Queer Mummer, their drag persona and ongoing art project, was inspired by an outfit that they made using a loom knitting machine. The loom-knit balaclava reminded them of mummering, a theatrical act performed by costumed visitors who go door to door on Christmas, still practised in parts of Newfoundland, Labrador, and Ireland today. A mummer conceals their identity to those they visit, performing hijinks, music, or dance; asking the host to identify them.
“That’s when I really nosedived into learning more textile practices” Lucas said. “Mummering is ever-evolving, and still flourishing. You can find mummering in Newfoundland, which is different than what happens in Philadelphia, where there are a lot of sequins and feathers. In Newfoundland, people are working-class and don’t have access to certain materials. They just use whatever they find around the house. A lot of times that ends up being crocheted items. That is one of the reasons that I used crochet: doilies make a huge appearance in mummering.”
The Queer Mummer is memorialized in several of Lucas’s performance and lens-based series. Likewise, their hockey jerseys have become part of a greater project, photographed on hockey cards where Lucas poses as the player featured on each team card, and they crochet a hockey mask to complete each player’s assemblage.
When asked what they are working on next, Lucas replies that they are keen to explore textiles and masculinity in juxtaposition to retro car culture and WWE wrestling. There seems to be endless possibilities for Lucas to explore textiles, sport, and gender norms and heteronormative attitudes through art.
“To see me, a masculine presenting person, crochet in public is considered a radical act, though the history of fibre includes men. It is only in the last 150 years that fibre has become so gendered. Craft, because of its gendered history, and gendered present, is just ripe for activist work. I like art that is pretty and all, but I want it to make you think.”