If you’ve ever taken an introductory art history course, you know the drill. Memorization of titles, periods, artists, and dates. If you’re anything like me, the monotony of learning the difference between quite similar paintings from the Italian Renaissance makes your brain numb. However, if you get lucky, sometimes your professors will spill the tea about various artists. I remember learning that Paul Gauguin was a terrible person, and perhaps, just maybe Grant Wood got fired from teaching due to his sexuality. Learning personal details of artists helps me better understand the period, the style, and just be more invested in my education.
Beyond making the class more interesting, investigating personal details of artists helps broaden student’s minds and introduce them to diverse perspectives. This means many art historians and scholars are doing their best to diversify the field by including BIPOC, women, and LGBTQIA+ artists in their curriculum. Hence, we thought we’d do the same here at hazel.
Here’s a list of ten artists that we’ve been inspired by this year. Let us know your favorites!
Born in Canada, raised in Hong Kong, and currently Brooklyn based, Jess Fan is intrigued by bodily fragments and the way they are put into normative identity categories. Inspired by mold making and factories, Fan reimagines the way that we see our bodies. Below features Fan’s video of Mother is a Woman from 2018.
Based in Bellingham, Washington, Chris Vargas is an interdisciplinary artist combines humor and mainstream media to explore the ways queer people navigate various environments. Outside of his art practice, Vargas is the Executive Director of MOTHA, the Museum of Transgender History and Art. Initially founded as a conceptual project, MOTHA invites audiences to understand the visual history of transgender life and how it could and should look. The project investigates the complexities of compiling a history of an identity when the verbiage surrounding the identity is fairly new.
Sable Elysie Smith
Interdisciplinary artist, educator, and writer, Sable Elysie Smith uses her art practice to address unseen violence especially in the prison system. Inspired by her father, who has been imprisoned for much of her life, Smith’s work makes 2-D works and sculptures. Often, Smith explores these ideas in the media of children’s coloring books. She hopes that everyone will garner something different from her work as a multi-effect.
Currently living and working in New York City, Ross Bleckner’s artistic focus is paintings that reflect the AIDS epidemic. His work explores human cells, as well as change and loss as related to his experiences living as a gay man. Not intended to be morbid, Bleckner’s oeuvre is meant to explore the nature of human experience through birth, life, and death.
South African visual activist, Sanele Moholi, investigates the relationship between race, gender, and queer identities through their work. They completed an Advanced Photography course in Johannesburg in 2003 and a MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University in Toronto. Muholi’s work attempts to bring attention to “corrective rape,” the HIV/AIDS crisis, assault, and subvert typical representations of Black people.
Dadaist artist, Hannah Höch, often features androgynous women doing typical “men’s work” in her practice. Höch pioneered a style that became known as photomontage which surrounds cutting and tearing photographs and pasting them together.
Gilbert and George
Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore met in the late 1960s while attending art school in London. Together, they produce ‘Art for All,’ meaning they make art not just for the elite art world but for the everyday person too. They are most well known for their project, The Pictures, in which they explore religion and patriotism through portraiture.
British painter, David Hockney, is considered to be one of the most influential British artists from the 20th century. Hockney is known for his portraiture, landscapes, and set designs at the Royal Court Theatre in London. He explores his queerness primarily through portraiture as seen in We Two Boys Together Clinging from 1961, which is based off of a Walt Whitman poem of the same name.
Born in Sandusky, Ohio, Catherine Opie was interested in photography since her childhood––gaining inspiration from 20th century photographer, Lewis Hine, who photographed child laborers. Particularly interested in community formation, Opie created a series called Portraits in 1993. Here, she photographed her friends in the queer community.
Alaskan visual artist, Nikita Gale, is typically inspired by specific objects which make up her oeuvre. Gale is interested in the social and political histories of the objects and the relationships they can form. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Yale and her Master of Fine Arts from UCLA.