JUNE 13 - JULY 9
works by Tom Canney

  • Opening Reception / Meet the artist: Friday, June 16 / 5-8pm
  • Free and open to the public
  • Opening Reception coincides with the Opening Reception for If You Knew, Let it Be Us in the main Gallery, as well as Art Round Town.

In honor of Portsmouth’s 400th year anniversary, 3S Artspace held an open call for submissions by artists living or working in Portsmouth today. There was no shortage of talent and creativity. We invite you to join us as we celebrate the extraordinary artists selected to exhibit in the Lobby Gallery in 2023. All exhibited works are available for purchase, with revenue supporting both the artists and 3S.

Artist Statement

The LGBTQIA+ community has historically found creative and subtle ways to signal personal identity to one another while avoiding detection from the general public. Using a complex history of language signifiers and subtle visible clues, this “secret society” was able to identify their own kind and, in turn, find the partners, support systems and chosen families they required to gain a sense of belonging.

Examples are broad and vary over generations and geographical locale. From the era of Oscar Wilde through the 20’s, violets or a green carnation were often pinned to a lapel. The lexicon of Polari slang of the 40’s and 50’s provided a way to communicate with a select circle who were intimately familiar. In the 70’s the colored bandanas in the back pocket, the “hanky code,” advertised specific sexual interests. These are just a few examples that only touch on some of Western culture’s LGBTQIA+ practices.

Though the necessity of utilizing clues has diminished in recent years, we’re now seeing a resurgence of tolerance-reversal in our current polarized political culture. Fringe views and conspiracy are being normalized via the conduit of social media, disenfranchising marginalized populations and undermining equality. This led me to ponder the idea of how our community may find themselves reverting back to reliance on secret signals once again.

This series is a reflection on these identity politics- and my own place within it. Using intentional pentimenti and media that alludes to things being held tenuously together, I am drawn to the metaphor of purposeful erasure. Beyond this, I seek symbols of commonalities that make us intrinsically human, regardless of who or what we present to the outside world.

Tom Canney Bio
Tom Canney is a multimedia artist and photo stylist currently living in Kittery, ME. A graduate of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, his work has been shown in various venues in the New England area, most notably in Provincetown, Boston and Portland, Maine.

Tomʼs work straddles an aesthetic balance between automatism, field painting and figurative drawing, creating layers in which narrative structures emerge - both purposed by the artist and/or read into by the viewer. Historically, themes of queer identity, traditional social mores and marginalized youth have been explored and deconstructed.

Though the last few years have been focused on his creative professional work in e-commerce, his personal artwork has quietly progressed behind the scenes. Inspired to delve more fully into producing personal artwork after returning to the Northeast from the Bay Area, this series of work is a response recent topical social issues facing the queer community at large.


Generously supported by:

3S Artspace is supported in part by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.