“For the context of my art and the Genuine Expression Exhibition, my perspectives on global political issues like gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights do come from a more privileged point of view. For my works that surround the community and our different expressions I do not claim to know their experiences, for instance I am not claiming to know the experience of a Black trans woman in the US, but because this exhibition is surrounding queer people and the depth of our community, I cannot exclude groups or experiences. It would be wrong to paint our community as made up of a monolith like white and gay, or binary, i.e. only women and men. This exhibition stands as a reminder for people to acknowledge and support queer people in all shapes and forms.
I want to emphasize, that even within queer spaces, there is no one way to look or be queer or LGBTQIA+. A lot of people have one interpretation of looking at trans or gay people but this project is aiming to say that queer people will continue to be ourselves, regardless of anything arguing otherwise.
My primary inspiration for these portraits is the community and other queer artists and queer activists, primarily from the US, but from all over the world. Like Chella Man, Adam Eli, Blair Imani, Daniel Arzola, and many others. I wanted to emphasize that the queer identity is not only affected by the intersections of our identities but how we understand ourselves and those identities both separately and combined.”
Saara Aalto Collage
With this collage I wanted to emphasize the Finnish LGBTQ+ community as well. Other than Tom of Finland and Tove Jansson I didn’t know any other LGBTQ+ Finns but once I found out she was a part of the LGBTQ+ community as well I was really proud and excited to have a queer person representing Finland in Eurovision as well as on a global platform through her music.
Collages - This is what queer people look like.
The other two collages aren’t based on specific people. The neutral expressions kind of mean that being queer doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just who we are, it’s a part of our life. I tried to make some of them a little funny with magazine clip outs, for instance the lobster is my favorite. I think if there would be any symbolism in these collages it would be the message that queer identities are made up of a lot of small things. It’s our history, our present, our future, personal experience, collective experiences, small migro-aggressions, etc. but also made up of a lot of big things like legislation that harms our community. To summarize, the queer identity and the LGBTQ+ community is made up of a lot of things and can’t really look one way or be pinned down to be one experience.
11 Drawings - the Flag Series
The drawings were meant as a short flag series. Three of the portraits are based on real people but the other half are not. Two represent the rainbow flag, one representing a gay man and one representing that the rainbow flag can also represent the entire community, not just gay men. Then I also made portraits representing the most widely accepted lesbian and bisexual flags. What was important to me with this series was to represent people who may not be represented otherwise, like femme Black lesbians or bisexual Black men.
Flag Drawing - Blair Imani - Rainbow Flag Colors
Blair Imani is an African American Muslim author, activist and historian. She wrote a book called Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History that emphasizes the voices and actions of 70 people who are changing the world right now. I was inspired by Blair because she is unappologetically queer, Black and Muslim and she has been able to inspire and support especially the queer Muslim population in the LGBTQ+ community through her work. I chose the rainbow flag because of one of her most famous photos taken of her in a rainbow hijab and I also wanted to emphasize that the rainbow flag can be used by anyone in the community.
Flag Drawing - Jamie Clayton - Trans Flag Colors
Jamie Clayton is an actress that played Nomi Marks in the Netflix show Sense8. When I drew this illustration I can’t remember there being many shows with trans representation, other than Pose. Not only was a trans character in the show, but they were one of the main characters and also dating another woman! Nomi is presented as having transphobic parents and being harassed for being trans, but she is also presented as having a loving family that supports and loves her. I thought it was really important to show trans youth that even if things are bad in their childhood, that they will have a loving, supportive family and that they are worthy of love.
Flag Drawing - Ian Alexander - Trans Flag Colors
Ian Alexander is an actor that played Buck Vu in the Netflix show The OA. I was inspired by Ian because he is not what people expect to see when they think of a trans man because he is A) Asian American, most people automatically envision queer people as white, and B) because he expresses himself in typically feminine ways, for instance with makeup. He is unapologetically himself. Ian and Jamie Clayton represent a new wave of trans and LGBTQ+ representation in media that is extremely important. Ergo, not only are they being represented in some romance and drama, but they are also being represented in some action and sci-fi films and shows!
New Delhi Pride - 2019
I was inspired by New Delhi Pride in India as they have recently struck down a colonial-era law that banned gay sex. I think I was inspired by this event as it illustrated that a lot of countries originally were not homophobic or transphobic societies, but once they were colonized, homophobia and transphobia were a form of cultural hegemony from colonizers. I was especially inspired by this one photograph of this man because he genuinely seemed happy. I just found his smile to be extremely heartwarming – especially with the hearts on his cheeks! – and I wanted other people to feel like this too.
Painting of a Black trans woman
With this piece I wanted to emphasize the Black trans women in our community and how they have been affected. The background is black unlike any of the other portraits, this hopefully builds more contrast between the other pieces in the exhibition and draws attention to this piece. I.e. Why is this one different from the others? I wanted to emphasize that in Western society it is Black trans women who are affected the most because of the intersection of their identities, for example, within the United States the average life expectancy for a trans woman of color is between 30-35 years old compared to 78 years old for the national average.
Strength in Community
With this piece I wanted to emphasize the message of the exhibition a bit more: to strengthen the LGBTQ+ community by supporting each other’s identities and supporting all queer and LGBTQ+ people. With this piece I made six figures (from left to right): Harvey Milk, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Stormee Delarvae, Brenda Howard and Hanne Gaby Odeile. I also incorporated some symbols like the pink triangle that replaces the U in “community” and the symbol associated with trans people replaces the O in “community”. I also tried to incorporate a few of the different flags. For instance, “strength” is in the original colors of Gilbert Baker’s flag, the figures are colored in the most widely accepted rainbow flag (without pink and turquoise), and “community” was meant to present the rainbow flag with black and brown stripes but since the entire background is black it made it a little difficult to add it as a letter.