Dezeen Magazine

Something Sticky by Leo Maher

Leo Maher references "queer legends" with Something Sticky lighting sculptures

British artist-designer Leo Maher has created sculptural lights that tell stories about homosexuality, set to feature in the Alcova exhibition during Milan design week.

A fake mermaid, a flower in drag and an ancient torture practice are all referenced in Maher's series, which he has named Something Sticky.

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
The series includes Leopard Slug, which emulates a gastropod mating ritual

The works were made from various materials, from aluminium to ceramic, combined with found and crafted objects such as sunglasses lenses, resin-dipped flowers and palm tree fronds.

The Design Academy Eindhoven alumnus describes the collection as "a hot-pot of queer culture" that is "deliberately kitchen-sinky in its form language".

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
Fiji Mermaid highlights a now-discredited narrative about a half-human, half-fish

"Like sticky hands gathering breadcrumbs, wet skin on the sand, a lint roller removing hairs from a dinner jacket, the series is given shape by gathering what has been left behind," he said.

Maher will present four table lamps from the Something Sticky series at Villa Bagatti Valsecchi, one of two historic houses hosting this year's edition of nomadic Milan design week exhibition, Alcova.

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
It is made from materials including concrete, granite, wood, and sunglasses lenses

Following on from Maher's graduation project, Unfamiliar Passions, the designs are all based on myths and stories relating to queerness and its influence on history and culture.

"Through joining various different material elements, each piece attempts to convey the narrative of queer legends, and question the cavernous holes left in the telling of time," said the designer.

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
Burl; Diamond of The Forest celebrates burl wood growth

Works set to feature at Alcova include Burl; Diamond of The Forest, which draws parallels between burl wood growth and homosexuality, in that both develop under pressure to conform.

"Burl growth incorporates underdeveloped buds, most commonly a result of some sort of stress or injury," said Maher. "Inside these complex knots, there is an abundant labyrinth of suppressed pasts."

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
The design draws parallels between burl wood growth and homosexuality

Fiji Mermaid highlights a now-discredited narrative about a half-human, half-fish, while Leopard Slug explores queerness in nature by emulating the same-sex mating ritual of a gastropod.

Also at Alcova will be Hairy Matters, a hairy lamp intended to question the gender stereotypes applied to grooming rituals.

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
Hairy Matters questions gender stereotypes in grooming rituals

Other works from the Something Sticky series, created with support from Dutch cultural fund Stimuleringsfonds, have been exhibited at Copenhagen gallery Tableau, design fair Collectible and Berlin gallery Cabin.

They include Gingering, which references the torture practice of inserting ginger into the anus, and Bee-Orchid, which pays tribute to a flower that has evolved to look like a female bee, in order to attract male bees to pollinate it.

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
Gingering references an ancient torture practice

"Stories of queer pasts are just as likely found where we might least expect them," said Maher.

"Recognising the tears and breaks that exist in the ordinary, [that is] the unpredictable key to our map for discovering hidden queer gold."

Something Sticky by Leo Maher
Bee-Orchid features a flower disguised as a female bee

Maher will also present new works for the Alcova exhibition: two wall scones, two candelabras and three pendant lamps.

Standout pieces include Drift Blossom, a lamp combining organic wooden elements with re-purposed antique glass flowers, and Naiad, a hanging lamp combining 3D-printed resin with cast brass.

Alcova takes place from 15 to 21 April 2024 as part of Milan design week. See our dedicated Milan guide on Dezeen Events Guide for information about exhibitions, installations and talks taking place throughout the week.