Shannon Lester's Art Embodies Evolving Personal Expression

Written on 05/04/2021
David Adelman

One wonders what this artist's work aims to say when looking at the red-breasted pregnant Miss Piggy as Balinese Witch Barbie Acrylic on Canvas 2015, or click next and skip to Of Goddesses and Monsters 2016. "My work has always been about personal expression," states Kelowna-based visual artist and drag performer Shannon Lester. "Recently I have explored fantasy art as a metaphor and personal narrative, and even more recently, in the past year, I dove deep into ocean art and painting the creatures of the sea. My love affair with the ocean has also led to a deeper awareness of the complex issues relating to climate change and the mass destruction of nature for the sake of capitalist and consumer culture."

According to their website, Shannon Lester states, "Of Goddesses & Monsters is a collection of acrylic paintings on canvas created over 1 year (2015-16). All the works deal with identity politics, portraiture, and the body, specifically exploring gender roles and sexuality from a queer perspective. The people and creatures portrayed in this series are a combination of personal friends, models, original imaginary creatures, and pop culture icons I am interested in. Some of the characters portrayed are also embodiments of personal archetypes, such as the Demon God portrayed in Illusions of Love and Hate or the self-portrait of my drag alter-ego Sasha Zamolodchikova (Femme Fatale/Serial killer, Cannibal, Witch) entitled Witches Brew. All of the paintings are imbued with very specific personal meanings and stories that I am more than happy to share with interested viewers."

Born in Vancouver, BC, and raised in Mt. Pearl, NL. Shannon Lester has lived in the Okanagan off and on for over 20 years. They are of mixed First Nations (Mi'kmaq) and European descent (German/British). "My work has always been about personal expression. In the past, it was very ostentatiously queer. This was not necessarily intentional, moreso a pure expression of myself as a queer artist and individual."

Growing up influenced by the psychotropic Salvadore Dali, majestically glam jam David Bowie and no doubt all the Surrealists that could be su-realized AND having a Masters in Fine Arts, Shannon Lester has a lot to say about 2021, and its thanks to a special certain someone. "On a personal level, I would have to say both my high school art teachers in Mt. Pearl and Winfield (Ms. Moore and Mr. Davidson) who both really encouraged me to pursue art seriously."

Living and breathing in this cut-throat human-run world can be difficult, especially as a queer artist. That is why Shannon Lester has this piece of advice on how to navigate in 2021. "I stay in my own lane and let the art historians, critics, and curators do the rest. I spent many years working in arts administration and was a curator myself while doing my MFA thesis, which led me to become somewhat disillusioned with the institutional art world. I honestly prefer to isolate myself and create work that isn't influenced by trends or current academic conversations. I don't connect with the contemporary art world very well at all these days."

Do yourself a favour and take a peek at Shannon Lester's latest and oldest pieces on their website They are all equally fabulous.

(Image Credits: Shannon Lester Art)