Queer individuals are the heartbeat of the arts community. Since the beginning of time, LGBTQ men and women and non-gender conforming artists have held space for unpopular sentiments, magical possibilities and powerful truths on stages, screens and canvases.
Painters, videographers, photographers, collage makers, and other artists help us see ourselves and one another. The work of these creators is worthy of attention and consideration year-round, and platforms like Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, ISE-DA, and the Queer Biennial are working to ensure that happens.
As we mark the beginning of Pride Month today, we celebrate these Black contemporary artists and the impact their creations have had on increasing queer visibility and shaping our understanding of identity and sexuality. Here are 16 LGBTQ visual artists you should know.
Mehretu’s breathtaking paintings have been exhibited at the Whitney and Gemini G.E.L
Martin told ESSENCE that part of how she began drawing was to escape the homophobia in her environment.
While we were still recovering from him snatching our edges at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015, Wiley became the first Black openly gay artist to paint a presidential portrait with his regal portrayal of President Obama in 2018.
Scott is a mixed media artist who has had solo exhibitions at the Akwaaba Art Gallery, and Index Art Gallery. She has also appeared in group exhibitions held by City Without Walls and the Paul Robeson Gallery.
Daye is a mixed-media artist who “aims to create work that imagines a future where black queer life is prosperous and thriving.” He recently launched the Black Queer Tarot Campaign.
Ugandan-born Babirye is a multidisciplinary artist who transforms everyday objects into works of art that explore identity, sexuality and human rights.
Thomas has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and New Orleans, but we fell in love with her portrayal of Naomi Campbell at West Palm Beach’s Norton Museum of Art.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase
Lyndon Chase Is A Philadelphia Based Artist Who Has Had Solo Exhibitions In New York And China.
Muholi is a South African artist whose solo exhibition at London’s Tate Museum proved the power of images to change perceptions.
Julien is the Filmmaker and installation artist behind 1989’s Looking for Langston. His work can be found in the collections of New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Paris’ Centre Pompidou, and Cape Town’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lyle Ashton Harris
Ashton Harris artistic practice includes photography, performance art, and collage. They have been awarded fellowships and awards from a number of prestigious institutions including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the High Museum of Art.
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
Sepuya is a photographer who was once an Artist-in-Residence at the Harlem Studio Museum.
Sable Elyse Smith
Elyse Smith is an interdisciplinary artist who creates using photography, illuminated neon text, video installations and other mediums. She has received recognition from Creative Capital, Fine Arts Work Center, the Queens Museum, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Franklin Furnace Fund, Art Matters and other arts organizations.
Huxtable is a New York based visual artist who incorporates deejaying into her artistic practice. Their work has appeared in exhibitions at MoMA PS1, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art.
Green captured Solange for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and was featured in an exhibition at Fotografiska New York in the same year and her project, Pur·suit sought to prevent LGBTQ erasure.
Isaiah has exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum. Their project “Our Moonlight,” presented the intimacy we sorely needed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.