Indigiqueer artist Dayna Danger creates worlds that embrace BDSM and don’t conform to gender and sexual norms

Charlie Smith · The Georgia Straight · Posted: Jul 21, 2021 9:54 AM PDT

Growing up in Winnipeg, visual artist Dayna Danger experienced conflicting identities. With Tio’tia:ke, Métis, and Saulteaux/Anishinaabe heritage, the 34-year-old Montreal-based artist described feeling “really ostracized” as she was raised in Polish Roman Catholic traditions.

Danger, who prefers the pronouns they and them, is also proudly Indigiqueer.

As a photographer, Danger strives to create a world in which people can exist freely without having to conform to gender and sexual norms.

“I’m really interested in BDSM culture—and that plays a lot into my work as well,” Danger told the Straight by phone.

That’s on display in the beading of leather fetish masks featured in some of Danger’s photographs, as well as in the creation of other tools commonly found in dungeons. Danger’s art blends sexuality and Indigeneity in ways that startle and challenge viewers.

One example on her website shows a naked Indigenous woman holding giant moose antlers over her genitals. There are other images of women with what appear to be long horse tails protruding from between their legs or their butts.

This year’s Vancouver Queer Arts Festival will feature Danger in its online Kindred Spirits community art showcase from this Saturday (July 24) to August 13.

Danger was one of the faculty members for the Kindred Spirits digital artist residency in May and June, which offered online mentorship to young, Indigiqueer artists.

Danger noted that their art has been influenced by how pornography manipulates bodies through the lens for pleasure.

In addition, Danger is drawn to “performance photography”, in this regard having been inspired by Winnipeg artist Lori Blondeau.

“I say that she did the fur bikini before Kim Kardashian did,” Danger quipped, referring to Blondeau’s Lonely Surfer Squaw. “And she’s Métis too.”

Dayna Danger’s Kinky Bundle, Photo Credit: Dayna Danger

Danger enjoys building items for many of their photographs so as to “have sovereignty over the narrative of being an Indigenous person”.

Sometimes, Danger’s photographs incorporate the type of bold and surprising imagery one might expect in Vancouver Indigenous artist Dana Claxton’s juxtaposition of the modern with the traditional. Danger augments this with high-fashion, over-the-top sexuality that might remind some of the work of the Felliniesque U.S. photographer David LaChapelle.

Then there are elaborate symbols and cues placed in many photographs, along with different shades of lighting, to create a narrative. One photo on Danger’s website shows a woman on the edge of a bed, dressed in sexually provocative lingerie but with a fake beard on her face. Her disinterested male partner is far off to the side, ignoring her, sending a message that he’s likely far less heterosexual than people might initially think.

According to Danger, the Kindred Spirits project reflected the huge need to mentor two-spirit and Indigiqueer young people who want to express themselves through their art.

“It became this really great support where we were able to talk about the different topics that come up and are concerning in our communities.”

At the interview’s close, when asked if there were any final points they would like to mention, Danger responded by emphasizing the importance of making space for Indigiqueer and two-spirit people to make art together to benefit the rest of the community.

“I feel it can become an inclusive thing where it’s not just about us having our own space but making space for all of us to exist together in safety,” Danger stated. “I would really love to see more support, especially from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, to advocate for that to happen.”

To learn more about the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver, visit the website. It runs from July 24 to August 13.