On Monday, June 13, in the wake of the horrific mass shooting in an Orlando gay bar, more than 2,000 Angelenos gathered at City Hall to mourn and pay their respects to the victims. That morning, performance artist Mirabelle Jones sat down at her sewing machine and got to work.
Using a combined 630 square feet of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple fabric purchased in DTLA's Fashion District, Jones — who lives in East L.A. and identifies as queer — spent eight hours creating a massive pride flag "on impulse."
"I woke up and felt strongly that I needed to make it or really that someone did, and that person might as well be me," she said via email. "I felt we needed a place to share our thoughts with each other."
Made of a sturdy nylon similar to what commercial flags are made of, Jones's flag ended up being 21 feet long and 30 feet tall. At the vigil at City Hall, Jones spread the flag out on the lawn and watched as more than 100 mourners came forth to cover it with their thoughts and emotions regarding the mass murder and the ongoing violence perpetrated against the queer community.
"As we carried the flag through the streets toward the end of the night, it seemed heavier," Jones wrote on the artist crowdfunding site Patreon. "Maybe it was our exhaustion with violence. Maybe it was the weight of the words."
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Inspired by the diversity she saw in the people who were compelled to write on the flag at the City Hall vigil, Jones took the project one step further.
On Friday at the LGBTQ art event Rainbow Shift 2.0 at the Montalban downtown, she effectively became a more mobile version of the flag by inviting attendees to write their own messages on her body. Wearing a nude two-piece suit, Jones stood with her arms out as people wrote things such as "one love" and "rest in power" in marker on her skin. After showing the flag one last time on Friday, Jones intends to donate it to the One Archive Foundation.
Jones gave credit to the people who inspired the project, besides those who were killed in Orlando.
In an email she wrote, "My girlfriend, who is a petite queer woman of color who gets harassed almost constantly (every time she goes out into public space), was very much on my mind. So was my companion who came out as bisexual the day of the shooting. And my trans friends who have to witness repeated violence (murder, sexual assault, harassment) toward the trans community. So were the friends and loved ones throughout the queer community who are made aware time and time again that they could be the target of violence simply for being who they are and choosing to love who they choose to love. These are the people who inspire me to keep making work even as queer, POC and women-identified artists continue to fight for space in the straight cis-male-dominated art world. My work is an attempt to amplify that struggle for safety, a struggle which I hope will someday not be an everyday fear for us."