Contemporary artists who investigate and reflect on the LGBTQ+ community

Looking at the practice of Salman Toor, Gilbert Lewis, Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Camilo Godoy and Laura Aguilar that concerns the queer community.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jun 23, 2022

Gay Pride Month, also known as LGBTQ Pride Month, is observed in June in the United States and other countries across the world. It features vibrant, uplifting parades with floats and celebrities, joyful festivals, seminars, picnics, and parties as some of its main events. Pride Month honours the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community's years of battle for civil rights and the continued pursuit of equal justice under the law, as well as the accomplishments of LGBTQ persons.

Gay Pride, or LGBTQ Pride, was commonly celebrated in the United States on the final Sunday in June (though there were several exceptions) that eventually grew into a month-long celebration, and is now celebrated all over the world. We look at how some contemporary artists use art to communicate their feelings about queer issues, and focus on five art practices that honour this characteristic via their artistic work.

Bar Boy, 2019, Oil Painting, Salman Toor | Gay Pride Month| STIRworld
Bar Boy, 2019, Oil Painting, Salman Toor Image: Courtesy of Gandalf’s Gallery on Flickr

With a caustic colour palette and scribbly technique, Salman Toor, a Pakistan-born artist residing in Brooklyn, adds homosexual brown boys to the scene. The display by the artist addresses the relevance of the LGBT diaspora through the lens of the Middle East and South East Asia. Toor's paintings excite and provoke attention with each brushstroke, drawing inspiration from familiar places and highly intimate situations. Toor makes works that contain social scenarios that fold into one another, adding another degree of complexity to the art, similar to the social scenes created by French Impressionist artists such as Renoir and Manet. Toor's paintings represent homosexual diasporic groups, including brown men hugging, a mehfil (party) scene with brown men playing traditional South-Asian instruments, and dejected-looking brown men at the immigration desk standing with their luggage on display. Toor created a few contemporary art pieces that deal with the policing of brown queer identities. In his works, he meticulously compares the disparities between the homosexual diaspora's private and public lives.

Nature Self-Portrait #7, 1996, Gelatin silver print, Laura Aguilar |Gay Pride Month| STIRworld
Nature Self-Portrait #7, 1996, Gelatin silver print, Laura Aguilar Image: Courtesy of Rocor on Flickr

Laura Aguilar created candid photographs of herself, her friends and family, LGBTQ+ and Latinx communities, and herself in photos and films that are frequently political as well as personal and straddle performative, feminist, and queer art forms. Aguilar utilised her nude body as an open and bold protest against the racial, gendered, cultural, and sexual colonialism of Latinx identities in her now-iconic triptych Three Eagles Flying from 1990. Her practise evolved spontaneously as she struggled to come to grips with and negotiate her sexual orientation and ethnicity, her battles with depression and auditory dyslexia, and her acceptance of her large frame.

Portrait - Amigxs, No. 3, Camilo Godoy Image: Courtesy of camilogodoy on Instagram

Camilo Godoy began asking friends and partners to take pictures in his studio four years ago. Despite being inspired in part by the historical men's magazine Amigo, Godoy opted to name his initiative AMIGXS, which is a gender-inclusive form of the Spanish term for ‘friends’. The photographs were compiled by the artist in three issues of an offset-printed zine. They transmit an "omnium gatherum" of physical desire across gender and ethnic identities, sexualities, and body forms when combined. “The photographs of AMIGXS defy racial, gender, and sexual norms,” Godoy told gallery OCDChinatown for his exhibition. “My work is informed by queer, Latinx, feminist, and Black perspectives. My photographs celebrate friendship and insist on love as a way of life to imagine different subversive ways of being.”

Drawing on a wide range of nude portraiture, Godoy's photographs reveal an attention to form that is as classical as it is contemporary.

Untitled (Holding Horizon) choreography by Alex Baczynski-Jenkins Image: Courtesy of ephemerafestival on Instagram

Alex Baczynski-Jenkins is a choreographer and visual artist interested in the queer politics of desire, vulnerability, and collectivity. Through emotion, empathy, and personal choreographies, he seeks to mediate queer embodiment and relationality. He is interested in queer affect, embodiment, and sensuality. His practise reveals patterns and politics of desire through gesture, collectivity, touch, and relationality. Through his work, he has concentrated on his choreography technique and the relationships between queer gestures, collectivity, intimacy, and the duration of transformation. He is also a co-founder and member of Kem, a Warsaw-based queer-feminist collective that works at the intersection of sound, performance, dance, and community development.

Faces and Phases at Venice Biennale 2019 by Zanele Muholi | Gay Pride Month| STIRworld
Faces and Phases at Venice Biennale 2019 by Zanele Muholi Image: Courtesy of Sam Saunders on Flickr

Zanele Muholi, a visual activist and photographer from South Africa, grew up in Umlazi, Durban, and now resides in Johannesburg. They received their MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University in Toronto in 2009. For over a decade, they have chronicled the lives of black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons in South African townships. Responding to the LGBTQ community's persistent persecution and violence, Muholi began an ongoing project, Faces and Phases in 2006, in which they show black lesbian and transgender persons. Muholi's stated objective is to "re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world to know of our struggle and presence during the height of hate crimes in SA and abroad”. Muholi's stunning pictures contribute to a more democratic and representative South African LGBT history. The artist thinks that through using positive imagery, they may alleviate the stigma and negativity associated with LGBT identity in African society.

(Text by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))

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