Mock-up designs for Pur·suit by Kayla Jones (all images courtesy Naima Green)

“I want to reflect my queer community,” explains Naima Green, the artist responsible for Pur·suit, a unique set of playing cards illustrated with portraits of her LGBTQ contemporaries.

The project is an homage to an earlier work by Catherine Opie called “Dyke Deck” (ca. 1995), which Green encountered while doing research at the New York Public Library for her MFA thesis. She quickly ordered a deck of her own on eBay. “Once in hand, I thought about it for weeks,” she recalled over email to Hyperallergic. “When I took several steps back, I realized that what intrigued me most about Opie’s deck was how it was a time capsule.” She wanted that for her own community.

Fast-forward several months. Green has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of Pur·suit for distribution. If Opie’s “Dyke Deck” represented a 1990s West Coast corner of the lesbian scene, then Green’s project is dedicated to an expanded 2018 East Coast crowd of queers. “I’m excited about the range of people who decided to sit for this project,” she told Hyperallergic. The playing cards will include portraits of community-driven groups like the Yellow Jackets Collective, Bklyn Boihood, and BUFU (By Us For Us).

Mock-up designs by Kayla Jones

With Opie’s blessing, Green embarked on her project to expand the original concept of “Dyke Deck” to celebrate a wider spectrum of queerness. (“I am very happy it inspired another deck,” Opie said about Pur·suit in an email to Hyperallergic.)

Green says that without Opie’s Dyke Deck, “I wouldn’t have known about that community. So I began thinking about how I might capture my queer community for posterity.”

Accordingly, Pur·suit’s digital presence will feature over 100 portraits of people who, Green says, “comprise the first stage of a digital archive created to expand and preserve narratives of queerness and its many evolving identities.” She has therefore focused her efforts on featuring marginalized groups within the LGBTQ umbrella, including queer people of color and trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people. The planned online archive will also include letters, poems, essays, and audio clips.

Yellow Jackets Collective for Pur·suit by Naima Green

If Green’s larger project is to create this broad digital archive of queerness, then why bother with the playing cards at all? “I wanted to make an object that people will hold dear but that is not too precious. I’m interested in object-making,” she explains. “Pur·suit will have elements of playing cards and tarot — each card will have a face and name and yet these cards can be used as playing cards. I want folks to use these cards however they please: throwing down in spades, divination readings, numerology, poker, etc.”

Pur·suit’s estimated budget breakdown

Grand aspirations come with a steep price. On Kickstarter, Green estimates that Pur·suit will cost about $32,000. She and her creative director, Toby Kaufmann, will not be taking salaries on the project. More than half the budget will go toward the printing and shipping of the decks with other significant costs covering design and production.

Years from now, Green hopes that her playing cards can speak to the socio-political causes her generation of queer people have fought for, including “basic human rights and dignity, rights we thought we’d secured for ourselves decades ago.”

Pur·suit is a testament to that fight for equality, evidence of “a missing data set in history,” the artist claims in her Kickstarter. “It helps complete an image of the world that we live in.”

River for Pur·suit by Naima Green

Bklyn Boihood for Pur·suit by Naima Green

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Zachary Small

Zachary Small was the senior writer at Hyperallergic and has written for The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Nation, The Times Literary Supplement, Artforum, and other publications. They have...