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The Lads Wore Pink: The Art of Sam Duckor-Jones

One drizzly day in May, two curiously bedazzled figures arrived at QT Wellington. Set on mirrored plinths, they found a home in our Long Gallery, standing (lounging? cackling?) as sort of guardians of the driveway. These masculine caricatures with their spindly limbs, bulging torsos and fuchsia ‘fits are the work of local artist, Sam Duckor-Jones, titled Lads (2023).  

Sam is an artist and writer from Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington). His preferred media are clay and poem, but he’s perhaps most well-known for Gloria, the art project and ‘potential cult’ he began in 2020. Gloria is a former Greymouth church-turned-Temple of Queer Celebration, decked out in lavish pinks and papier-mâché parishioners. So camp is Gloria, that you might expect to find her in a Queer capital such as Sydney or San Fran, yet there she lays, unassuming, in the remote South Island countryside. 

But back to the lads. Sam tells us the story of how these beings came to be: 

“I always enjoy making large figurative work that celebrates the campy masculine – soft boys cosplaying as hard men – with a little genderfuckery thrown in too – the work should be silly and be serious about its silliness.  Me, I like to wear a silk bathrobe and gumboots.  

“These particular pieces came about after a rather ragged fellow, who attends the community art space I tutor at in Greymouth, brought in a box of plaster teeth.  I took a couple of sets home and went about building work around them.  The challenge quickly became how do I not make this work too grotesque?  A bit grotesque is fine, but I want there to still be warmth and vulnerability and humour and camp.  And well, at the time I had indeed been reupholstering some chairs, as noted in the poster text.  I usually prefer to work with clay, but my new digs in Greymouth aren’t set up yet for such industry, so I pivoted to textiles.  And we got ourselves LADS.  A little threatening…a little ridiculous.  Lads. 

“I’m quite fond of them.  And I especially like how the mirrored plinths add a sort of surprise glamour……………a glamorous puddle perhaps.  Glamour in the gutter.” – Sam Duckor-Jones, Artist 

From Sam’s exhibition poster, he offers some words on the lads’ origins: 

First they like to lean outside & smoke & stare or banter/ then they come indoors where they make quick & tidy pastel works / confetti by keith haring / they bring savouries & sweets to share with the other artists / & odd things too like for example / old items from their jobs where they work making / for example / plaster casts for dentists / ‘teeth?’ they ask / meanwhile / at neighbouring end of tables they’re painting one thousand tiny suns / ‘if we’re handing out pressies sam’ then say ‘we thought you might like these’ / & they pull ziplocs from their pockets containing jewellery from their mothers / deceased etc / at the time I’d been thinking about gender expression / I’d been reupholstering some chairs / 

Lads (2023) is the newest addition to the Parkin Collection we house at QT Wellington, thanks to the generosity and original eye of collector, Chris Parkin. 

Hop, skip, jump and stay at ours, where you’ll be greeted by the gleeful, gilt-gobbed Lads.   

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