Mestizo Arts Presents: Home Is Never Dead; It Isn’t Even Home


This weekend marks the opening of the Mestizo Institute of Culture & Arts “Home Is Never Dead, It Isn’t Even Home” exhibition by artists Julian Croft and HALO. The theme of the art exhibition is the LGBTQ+ experience in homes. Intimacy, family and the difficulties of expressing oneself in certain environments are major topics in their work. Croft and HALO welcome visitors to their collaborative exhibition to explore the sapphic house in multiple dimensions.

SLUG: How has your artistic perspective changed within the last year, especially as a duo?

HALO: I have just immersed myself in abstract work. Before this, I did a lot of graphic art, among other ventures.

Croft: Abstract pieces are what kept me busy at the start of college.

HALO: It’s like their main language. They brought that influence into my line of work, so this is what I do. It is one of the first and main abstract pieces I’ve ever done, which is pretty exciting and exploratory. I just love to be at that state in my art.

SLUG: What key message and/or emotion do you hope viewers take away from this exhibit?

“Through evocative portrayals of sapphic and lesbian domestic life, I explore narratives of love, privacy and dynamics of desire,” HALO says. Photo: Evan Hancock

Croft: I think from my side it’s one of connection. I want people to come in and be able to connect with our work as a story, you know? Anyone, regardless of their orientation or anything like that, [can appreciate it]. Like, there are paintings in here that they’re going to come in and reflect on and think about the home they came from. Our goal is to hit the refresh button on our search for “home,” whether in the form of closure, nostalgic recollection or loved ones. It’s this very search that’s led to the home I’ve created with and for myself and my loved ones.

HALO: My work delves into the notion of home as a space for subtle acts of resistance. Through evocative portrayals of sapphic and lesbian domestic life, I explore narratives of love, privacy and dynamics of desire. I invite viewers to contemplate the profound connections that bind us to our homes. Historically, the queer experience has been predominantly depicted through a narrow lens, often focusing on our influence on pop culture. In our work, we aim to broaden this perspective by highlighting queerness through the realms of tradition and family, offering viewers a more nuanced and humanized understanding of the diverse experiences within the queer community.

SLUG: Would either of you consider turning your current pieces, subtle acts of resistance themselves, into mural work?

Croft: Absolutely, that would be incredible!

HALO: Yes! I did complete a mural for Under the Umbrella Bookstore, located here in The Gateway. For that little queer bookstore, there’s a kind of private space so that you can come together. So, there’s a big mural of a person amongst, like, books that are growing from the earth.

SLUG: Can you share the stories behind the featured art pieces at this exhibition?        

HALO and Julian Croft sit in front of “Ode to Ofuro,” a painting about sharing moments of mindfulness. Photo: Evan Hancock

HALO: This first piece is our “Traveling TV.” It was a traveling TV in my apartment complex—it made its initial appearance in the main hall and then it just kept getting scooted closer to my door. We ended up making something with it. I dropped it because it’s here for a reason. Sure enough, I just kind of used it as a diary for over a year now.

HALO: This is the “Ode to Ofuro.” Ofuro is a traditional Japanese bathing practice geared towards relaxation and mindfulness, and it’s what I knew. Aside from being an artist, I work at a Japanese holistic spa, where I provide this ritualistic but rapid service for people within this collective meditative space.

I also find myself coming home to my little apartment, the love of my life and the opportunity to practice our mindful Ofuro practice. The bathtub has always been this kind of sacred space, to be in that moment and share that moment often. And I think about the fact that my parents would never bathe together. You know, they had a “normal” kind of home dynamic. And here we are. This is an ode to sharing moments of mindfulness and resetting, like sharing the bathtub with the one I love. I just think it’s special.

SLUG: What ultimately keeps you enamored with second-hand canvases?

Croft: I find that repurposing mediums adds profoundness to our collective exploration of home and family as fragments of memory imprinting us with the unknown and impacting our actions and experiences. I use mostly found and second-hand canvases, preferring framed work. I paint onto the frame to indicate the order of my process and nod to the previous life of the work, allowing it to live on but [be] disconnected from its original story.

SLUG: How do you see your work evolving in the future? Are there new themes or mediums you’re interested in exploring?

HALO: I think we’ll be continuing to explore different ways to continue upcycling what we can.

Croft: I feel really passionate about that because I just keep thinking about how our culture is so saturated in overproduction. I’ll be considering these efforts when delving into prop-making.

“I find that repurposing mediums adds profoundness to our collective exploration of home and family as fragments of memory,” Croft says. Photo: Evan Hancock

SLUG: Lastly, what are you two working on next?

HALO: We’ll definitely continue to work within our Side Eyes Sets project. We complete installations and create immersive art, typically via Instagram.

Croft: I learned that I love prop-making, and seeing as how we would have to do more of that for installations, I’m looking forward to our work prospects. I’m having so much fun with that (and baking).

SLUG: I can’t wait to see who comes in for your exhibit. It’s going to be amazing!

Whether you’ve been actively following Mestizo Arts for a while or looking for a reason to take a trip downtown, consider following this duo’s work on Instagram at @side_eye_sets to keep up to date with their latest creative social haps and installations. While you’re there, don’t forget to follow HALO at @haihefner and Julian Croft at @art.juliancroft!

See “Home is Never Dead; It Isn’t Even Home” for yourself from June 1 through July 6 at Mestizo Arts. Attend the exhibition’s opening reception from 6–10 p.m. on Saturday, June 1.

Read more about past exhibitions at Mestizo Arts:
Lunares Explores the Unseen Power of Tears in Lágrimas: Rain, Glitter

Love Letters to the West Side: Celebrating the Roots We Hold Close