Terminology is not always absolutely correct when it comes to gender issues. Many feel that it is too subjective to fit into simplistic, generalized categories. Sometimes words fail to fulfill their raison d’être. So, the messages we seek can be found in art and its visual vocabulary.
In this selection of works of art, we want to explore identity in all its forms. From LGBT artwork to other beautiful and complex manifestations of homosexuality.
Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, 1940
We never tire of repeating that Frida Kahlo was definitely ahead of her time. This self-portrait is just a testament to this, presenting us with one of the first true examples of LGBT paintings. The artist advocated that each of us carries both masculine and feminine qualities, urging us to face this multiplicity, and not deny it.
Bill T. Jones Body Painting by Keith Haring (with Tseng Kwong Chi), 1983
Paintings on the body of Keith Haring are a long tradition of the artist to avoid canvases and seek uncharted artistic territory. Haring was not afraid to take art beyond its formal context. The 1983 photograph of Bill T. Jones was taken in collaboration with photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. The black and white images immortalized a rather spectacular moment: the meeting of three artists, combining photography, choreography, and street art.
In this case of a famous LGBT artwork, the expressiveness of the dance is combined with another type of expression, namely Haring’s unique and mysterious hieroglyphs.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Two Men Dancing, 1984
Robert Mapplethorpe has mastered duality like no other. The film photographer perfected the art of playing with binaries, pushing them until they reach their limit. His black and white photographs are bright examples of famous LGBT artwork. They are full of contrast, on both a technical, and aesthetic level but also in terms of his chosen subject matter. In “Two Men Dancing” we see how the dichotomy between male and female is asserted, opposing hard and tender.
Tracey Emin, Her Soft Lips Touched Mine and Every Thing Became Hard, 2008
The famous LGBT artwork of British artist Tracey Emin is widely recognized as autobiographical in that it draws on her personal experiences of conflict and trauma. The artist has used her personal life as a source of inspiration throughout her career, whether it’s the polemical installation Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With or the love letters she’s published since. Emin’s neon transcriptions, imitating her own handwriting, are no exception. They remain intimate and deeply personal, capturing fleeting thoughts or unspoken desires.
Her confessional writings had a major impact on the art world, normalizing feminist narratives and opening the way for non-traditional, trauma-related experiences.
Lídia Vives, The Rival, 2015
Barcelona-based photographer Lydia Vives captures a fundamental aspect of same-sex and non-heteronormative relationships. The uniform in this example of famous gay art highlights the similarities between the two subjects.
However, if you look closely, it quickly becomes apparent that the girls are wearing different colors and therefore belong to different teams. This detail encompasses the complexities of being weird and the need to navigate the space between friendship and romance, sisterhood and binary gender roles.