A growing group of artists is developing a new visual vocabulary for depicting queer intimacy. Combining ambition in one personal, political and picturesque, this cohort celebrates a strange closeness. And they do it decisively and at times with trepidation, delicately rejecting the oppressive looks that sometimes accompany appearances.
Their work ranges from sexuality to sadness, noisy to raw, hot to heavy while doing the important job of expanding our repertoire of intimate imagery. Let’s take a look at some queer painters working today.
Willa Chasmsweet Wasserman
To avoid including plots in her own worldview, Willa Chasmwit Wasserman paints using certain techniques that limit her vision. This queer painter works in the dark. She paints with copper wool or observes her subjects with a convex protective mirror that distorts their appearance.
Regarding the forced blurring of the resulting images, Wasserman said that these methods are limitations against her own bullshit.
In her paintings, it is difficult to discern the face or gender of the figure. The Los Angeles-based artist will open her first New York City solo exhibition, Chasm Sweet, this September at Downs & Ross.
Frieda Toranzo Jaeger
In her work, Mexico City’s queer painter Frida Toranzo Jaeger often depicts lesbians having sex in driverless cars. Driverless cars fascinate Jaeger. She sees them as a symbol of the future, which she wants to declare a queer space.
As a rule, such paintings also include embroidered elements. Her family is trained in Mexican embroidery styles and she often uses them to create these pieces. For her ongoing Baltimore Art Museum solo exhibition, “The Eternal Feeling of Redness,” which runs through October 3, she has used this technique to insert “an indigenous tradition into a Western one.”
Wellmann’s figures are often more like swirling masses with a few individual naked bodies protruding. It seems that one lover merges into another. And sometimes it’s hard to tell how many people are present.
The New York-based Canadian-born queer painter lends a certain sheen to her canvases using delicate, deliberate strokes of white paint. Her finished work retains a tangible sense of the liquid nature of the paint and conveys the wildness of desire. Her solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Arts Center in Belfast, Northern Ireland will run until 8 August.
In her first solo exhibition earlier this year at the Matthew Brown Gallery in Los Angeles, Brooklyn-based artist Sasha Gordon presented artfully captured moments of self-discovery from her youth. Through her paintings, Gordon tries to make sense of the dynamics she experienced growing up as a weird Asian girl in an upper-middle-class, white, suburban New York City.
Two works from The Matthew Brown Show, Pond Lovers (2020) and Campfire (2021), show a pair of young women skinny dipping together, capturing the excitement that is an unencumbered youth romance.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase
This Philadelphia-based artist’s brightly colored and casually executed portraits of queer African Americans depict pleasure in all its complexity. Sometimes the works bear traces of violence. “As someone living with bipolar disorder,” Jonathan Lyndon Chase once said, “it’s very important for me to talk about this full complex range.”
However, the queer painter tries not to depict cruelty against blacks. “Whether it’s on lynching postcards or on Instagram, there are too many images of our bodies just being put on display.” Chase also intends to make his art available to a wide audience, citing Kehinde Wylie, Mycalene Thomas, and Henry Taylor as influences in this regard.
Born in Tennessee and living in Brooklyn, Jenna Gribbon has painted dozens of pictures of her fiancee, indie musician Torres. In her paintings, the artist is looking for a mixture of “motherhood, sexuality, humor and everyday life, because we often act as if we should attribute parts of ourselves to these things, which is a little absurd.”
Her subjects have neon nipples that are impossible to miss. The desire to highlight this part of the body of her figure is a playful attempt to make viewers feel ashamed of their views.