Instagram and the internet are a source of endless information for the curious mind. It would have been lovely to grow up with this information at the palm of my hand. Friends and I usually talk about this and how we would have been able to satisfy our curiosity regarding any matter. We learnt from books and if we were brave enough, or our parents open enough, we would ask them. We also had friends to ask, but they invariably didn't know the answer either and we would end up just shrugging our shoulders and move on to the next thing. When I was a kid, the classification was either gay, or lesbian, followed by many insulting nicknames to address either. You are probably wondering if I grew up in the middle ages. No, the 80s in São Paulo, where we dared not to be different, or put a lid on it. It's pretty much how it felt. But now, answers at the palm of your hands. Instagram - if they don't flag it and ban it, many accounts to learn from too.
As you may have guessed from the title, I follow a few queer artists on Instagram and decided to highlight some of my favourite who use art to express who they are and the LGBTQ+ community.
Kim is an American artist living in Sydney, Australia since 2012. She generally paints LGBTQ+ people or very strong allies including her partner, dearest friends and queer activists exploring the queer identity in it's various forms. The backgrounds are usually abstract and blend into the realistic figurative part to represent an individual's place and identity within society, the background is also chosen in accordance to the personality and taste of the sitter. In her own words:
I am constantly exploring the boundary between realism and abstraction to highlight the layers and complexity of identity and place. (source)
It was very difficult to narrow down my favourite paintings, but I am sure you can scroll through her website, or instagram and pick your won! I love Ollie Henderson's elegance and how the background blends in beautifully with her top. It's an absolutely gorgeous piece of an equally wonderful woman and activist. Here is a link to her TedTalk where she talk about Fashion as a Catalyst for Change.
I first saw Andrew's work online and had planned on going to see his 2016 exhibition at Beer's Gallery, in London. Unfortunately I was taken ill and was unable to attend. His paintings are generally very large and extremely colourful, which is what attracted me to them. Some of the portrait had clown faces and seemed very playful, although there was more to it, a certain sensitivity which made the viewer look twice. Lazarus, pictured below is one of the pieces I absolutely loved because society has a tendency to forget that men can also be sensitive without making them less manly. Andrew depicts it so beautifully and the surrounding colour doesn't detract from it, you still focus on Lazarus' expression before allowing your eyes to tear away from him and wonder around the painting. That particular piece is 205x235cm, which is absolutely massive and the list of mediums used is also extensive - oil, oil pastel, spray on canvas with collage, mixed media and hand-stitched and hand-dyed linen over 6 canvases!
I love how Andrew describes his subjects as:
they are black, trans, women, gays. Its all my freaks and geeks jamming out together (source)
I also had to include his work Paper Moon because as soon as I saw it, it took me back to Grayson Perry's 2015 exhibition at Bath Museum called “The Vanity of Small Differences”. Six large tapestries depicting the different classes in British society and their taste. It's not the theme though, but the way the scene in Andrew's work, is explored. Lots of colour, it's a indoor scene with the bottle spilling its contents on the floor, it's the surrounding chaos and then the figures, in their own internal world lying placidly, but evoking an inner malaise, as if they were mourning their relationship? It could be viewed as many things. Also, that cat has a ridiculously long tail. This is another piece I could stare at for hours.
Little is known about Relm, I have read interviews about her, she posts a few selfies, but otherwise, other than knowing her favourite colour - it's maroon, by the way, I couldn't unearth much about her. She was born in Bosnia & Herzegovina, was raised in New York City, and now lives in Ontario, Canada. But enough about her personal history, let's look at her art. Her paintings and drawings are the most delicate, beautiful, dreamlike images I have ever seen. She said she's inspired by many things, but her ideas also come to her in dreams, which explains a lot. She will perfect these ideas in her mind before committing them to paper, or paint, and then we are gifted with her wonderful imagination. She explores female sexuality and erotic lesbian relationships mixed in with whimsical details that delight the mind and stimulates one's imagination.
I wanted to port some of her more recent work, but they are decidedly more risque and I didn't want to break anyone's brain, but you can find them all on her Instagram account.
Relm also explores the surreal and grotesque, but again, with such delicacy and tenderness that you can stare at her paintings for hours exploring all the details and symbolism.
4. Francis Bacon (website)
I was trying to stick to artists who are alive, because the dead ones don't need our money, but Francis Bacon is a rather iconic artist and I couldn't avoid mentioning him. He once said:
Whenever I really want to know what someone looks like I always ask a queer - because homosexuals are always more ruthless and more precise about appearance. After all, they spend their whole lives watching themselves and others, then pulling the way they look to pieces. *
At the end of World War 2, Bacon was painting men in dark suits as if they were trying to blend into a society that would discriminate against them and have the arrested. Police raids were commonplace at that time period during which Scotland Yard head, John Gielgud was weeding out homosexuals from the British Government. Over 1,000 homosexuals were imprisoned per year during the early 1950s. Bacon also painted several studies of men in suits screaming and looking uncomfortable, as for instance, in the Study After Velasquez. In the 1960s, his figures started to become even more distorted and simplified, which proceeded in such manner into the 1970s onwards.
I love Handiedan's collages and cutouts and watching her process videos is always an eye-opening experience as we can see how each intricate piece fits into the other. It's like she took an Alphonse Mucha painting and then just kept adding to it - added more spirals, more clockwork, then cut it out and added more and took it to a whole new level of intricacy.
I also find her images extremely sensual and beautiful capturing the models at an intimate moment where they are oblivious to the world around them and just caught up in their moment. It's an enjoyable experience, looking at her artwork and discovering new elements you might have missed at first sight. I would highly recommend visiting her website and checking out her videos, which can be quite hypnotic.
Another artist who is capturing intimate moments between women, is Hilary Harkness, but not only does she do that, she will place women in several situations where society would usually expect a man. Her wonderful series Life with Alice and Gertrude portrays several scenes which, to be honest, you should see for yourself because I don't want to ruin the surprise. I have posted here the less surreal one, the most boring one compared to the women holding decapitated heads and other very odd images, all in a very colourful setting. She alludes to many Impressionist painters, pop culture and so much more, the longer I look, the more I spot.
Her other series, which I really enjoyed, is Prisoners from the Front, which alludes to the American Civil War, but again, with many of the images showing women as soldiers seducing the damsels. Again, I don't want to say much because seeing it with one's own eyes is defenitely a very rewarding experience.
There are many artists out there doing amazing things to bring more visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. I was trying to stick to fine art, but there are photographers, video makers, lost of artists also creating protest content which are worth looking into. I have posted below a couple of websites where you can find some of these artists and Googling will also bring up more artists.
The Art Story, LGBTQ+ Artists: https://www.theartstory.org/artists/lgbt-artists/
Artsy - 15 Young LGBTQ Artists Driving Contemporary Art Forward: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-15-young-lgbtq-artists-driving-contemporary-art-forward
*Crippa, Elena. All too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life. Tate Publishing, 2018. p. 45