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Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan

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Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan are a Canadian performance art duo who, since 1989, have collaborated on performances, films, videos, publications and public art projects. Both out lesbians,[1] Dempsey and Millan collaborate most commonly on humorous performances addressing lesbian and feminist themes in a variety of media, including film, video and live performance poetry. Dempsey and Millan are based out of Winnipeg, and have toured and performed worldwide.[2] Their work has been featured in four retrospectives.[3]

Their most well-known works are the music video "We're Talking Vulva" (a segment of movie Five Feminist Minutes), the performance video "What Does a Lesbian Look Like?", which was in regular rotation on MuchMusic in the 1990s[4] and was featured on the spoken word poetry compilation album Word Up. They are widely known as the Lesbian Rangers of Lesbian National Parks and Services. Their use of costumes and props in narrative skits enable them to make performance parodies of what is officially sanctioned as normal and legitimate.[5]

In the early 2020s they were involved in the design of Thunderhead, which was announced in March 2022 as the winning design proposal for the new LGBTQ2+ National Monument in Ottawa.[6]

Selected performances[edit]

Astroart Space Corps[edit]

Astroart Space Corps was a performance for Nuit Blanche 2014 in Calgary, Alberta. Dempsey and Millan attended as commanders of the PANDORA I space shuttle, taking a break from training to sign commemorative photographs.[7]

Grocery Store[edit]

For Grocery Store, Dempsey and Milan, along with jake moore and Zab worked together as The Co-Op Collective to turn Ace Art Gallery in downtown Winnipeg into a functioning grocery store, providing "food and food for thought" to serve the downtown core of the city and bring attention to the lack of essential provisions in the area. The collective ran ads on the radio, ran an advertising circular and a mail-in coupon campaign directed at the mayor to request the creation of real services in the area. The collective sold over $5000 worth of groceries during month of August 2002.[8]

Lesbian National Parks & Services[edit]

Lesbian National Parks & Services is an ongoing series of performances, videos and printed matter. Dressed as park rangers, the duo sought to "queery[...] that icon of Canadianness"[9] through their site-specific performances satirizing the commodification of the Banff wilderness. Dempsey and Millan handed out maps of Banff, including real and imaginary tourist attractions, such as "Invisible Lesbian Heritage House and Gardens" and the "Invisible Plaque Dedicated to our Founding Foremothers." Dempsey and Millan released "Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America: Flora, Fauna & Survival Skills"[10] in 2002.[11] Dempsy and Millan performed a tour of duty in 2008 as a part of the Land Matters series at the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery.[12]

Arborite Housedress

Tableau Vivant: Eatons Catalogue 1976[13][edit]

Mary Medusa[14][edit]

Selected film and video[edit]

  • Consideration Liberation Army
  • A Day in The Life of A Bull Dyke (1995)
  • What Does A Lesbian Look Like?
  • Object/Subject of Desire
  • We're Talking Vulva[15][16]


  • Miss Gray's Marvellous Truth Machine
  • Wild Ride
  • Archaeology and You
  • Mirror Mirror
  • One Gay City


Dempsey, Shawna and Lorri Millan. Anatomy of a Nymphomaniac. Winnipeg: disOrientation Chapbooks, 1997.

Bedtime Stodies for the Edge of the World. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2012.

Handbook of the Junior Lesbian Ranger. Winnipeg: Finger in the Dyke Productions, 1995.

In the LIFE: Portrait of a Modern Sex-Deviant. Winnipeg: Finger in the Dyke Productions, 1995.

Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America: Flora, Fauna & Survival Skills. Toronto: Pedlar Press, 2002.

Mary Medusa: A Testimonial. Winnipeg: Finger in the Dyke Productions, 1992.

Winnipeg Tarot Co. Tarot Deck. Winnipeg: Finger in the Dyke Productions, 2010.

Prizes and awards[edit]

Dempsey and Millan have received many awards, including the Canadian Museums Association Award for Outstanding Publication and the Manitoba Arts Council Special Prize for Innovation and Excellence.[2] In 2018 they were awarded the Manitoba Arts Award of Distinction, which recognizes long-term achievement at the highest level of excellence of an artist in the province.[17]


  1. ^ Borden, Anne (February 2003), "Interview with Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan", The Danforth Review, archived from the original on April 29, 2009, retrieved 2008-03-25
  2. ^ a b "Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan". ccca.concordia.ca. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  3. ^ anonymous. "Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan | Women's Studies - University of Windsor". www1.uwindsor.ca. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  4. ^ "Interview with Performance Artists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan". Step On Magazine. Archived from the original on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  5. ^ Wark, Jayne (2006). Radical Gestures: Feminism and Performance Art in North America. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-0-7735-2956-4.
  6. ^ "Thunderhead design chosen for LGBTQ2+ National Monument in Ottawa". CBC News Ottawa, March 24, 2022.
  7. ^ Nuitblanchecalgary.ca Archived 2014-11-13 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Dempsey, Shawna; Milan, Lorri. "Performance". Finger In The Dyke Productions. Archived from the original on 6 May 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  9. ^ Francis, Margot (2000). "The Lesbian National Parks and Services". Canadian Woman Studies. 20 (2): 131–136.
  10. ^ Dempsey, Shawna; Millan, Lorri (2002). Lesbian National Parks and Services Field Guide to North America: Flora, Fauna & Survival Skills. Pedlar Press. ISBN 0968652263.
  11. ^ O'Brian, John; White, Peter (2007). Beyond Wilderness: The Group of Seven, Canadian Identity, and Contemporary Art. Montreal: McGill-Queen's.
  12. ^ Mills, Josephine; University of Lethbridge; Art Gallery (2009-01-01). Land matters: location, ground, reference. Lethbridge: University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. ISBN 9780919555372. OCLC 444697025.
  13. ^ Swan, Sarah (29 July 2014). "Good performance art makes audience nervous". Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  14. ^ Greenhill, Pauline (1998). "Lesbian Mess(ages) Decoding Shawna Dempsey's Cake Squish at the Festival Du Voyeur". Atlantis. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
  15. ^ Andrew Houston (2007). Environmental and Site-specific Theatre. Playwrights Canada Press. ISBN 978-0-88754-806-2.
  16. ^ Sue-Ellen Case; Philip Brett; Susan Leigh Foster (22 June 2000). Decomposition: Post-Disciplinary Performance. Indiana University Press. pp. 190–. ISBN 978-0-253-02820-4.
  17. ^ Sandals, Leah. "Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan Win $30K Award of Distinction". Canadian Art. Retrieved 8 June 2018.

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