For centuries, art has been a space of self-expression, an opportunity to have a voice during times of silence and oppression, and a vehicle for storytelling. But for too long, the world of popular visual art—the artists themselves, the spaces that display the works, and the curators, buyers, and educators involved—has been dominated by the primarily white, wealthy, and heteronormative. As the times change, this needs to as well, explains Sydney-based artist Marisa Mu. "I want queer artists to be highlighted, celebrated, and bought to the forefront—where we rightfully belong," she says.
If the intention of art is to uplift creators and support narratives that have been brushed aside, the collective goal should be to support the up-and-coming artists of all backgrounds, identities, and mediums who are paving the way. Saatchi Art, an online art gallery and artist network owned by Well+Good parent company Leaf Group, takes this goal to heart and put it into action.
Saatchi Art's new collection, Towards Utopia, features more than 50 works of art from LGBTQ+ artists "that suggest liberation, empowerment, and the potential for queer futures—even utopia." The collection represents artists from all over the world, from various backgrounds and walks of life, who use a multitude of materials and mediums to express the universality of emotions, the diversity of experiences, and the importance of strength, resilience, and pride (in every sense of the word).
"Seeing art made by a queer artist as a young person was the first time I could see myself reflected back to me," says Lauren Denitzio, another of the artists featured in Saatchi's pride collection of its significance. "When I think about creating more visibility for queer artists, I think about how our work can present a wider range of identities and possibilities to the public."
"I feel it is important to highlight queer artists because we have not had the space and platform to share our stories and voices, let alone have our art recognized or celebrated," adds Mu. "Allow us to be who we are because we are here, and we are queer,"
Keep scrolling for a preview of selected works from Saatchi Art's Towards Utopia and click here to view the rest of the collection.
Inspired by the natural landscape in the artist’s home of British Columbia, Canada, this work represents “the dream of a liberated and radical queer future, a future that is fluid and free,” says Nicole Melnicky. “The body and my identity have always been a constant in my studio practice. Creating work about the body allows me to speak about my queerness, and color empowers me to reclaim my identity. As I have found more courage to express who I am throughout my life, my work began to do the same. I began to celebrate my identity instead of hiding it, akin to the pride flag; color became a way to speak about my identity in a positive light. Art has given me the space to explore, experiment, and discover, always allowing me to express my colorful identity with no constraints, and that is what art has the potential to be.”
“I’ve always been attracted to portraiture as well as abstraction, especially as it relates to the way queer and feminist folks construct their domestic space. I wanted to show each of them in their own homes while leaving room for the imaginary and presenting maybe a more emphatic or vibrant interpretation of the space around them,” says Denitzio. This bright, acrylic work is one part of a larger series that does the same.
According to the artist, the inspiration for this work is “that feel-good feeling of being enveloped in colour and love; celebrating individualism with rigour and joy.” This one of a kind watercolor is “about celebrating our day-to-day moments that epitomise what makes us the wonderfully colourful womxn we are—and if that’s through dancing in our underwear or swinging our bras off then so be it. I am love and I stand for love,” says Mu.
Created by queer German artist Imanuel Scheiko, this original painting using acrylic paint and fine liner ink pen on wood panel is inspired by living a life others don’t understand. “That way I might lose some of you but I will find me, and that is a win!” says Scheiko. The word drawn in the painting is a Persian word which is pronounced “man” and it means “I,” he explains.
Created with a base collage of nautical maps covered by a photo print of the messenger of the gods, Mercury, this large, multimedia piece embraces both color and the human body in an interconnected way.
Inspired by old renaissance and classical paintings, this wooden painting represents more than three figures playing cards. Unlike the initial depictions which usually represent men, these figures sexual identities are ambiguous. While “the money in the pot is minimal and the stakes don’t seem to be too high since there is also a candy necklace up for grabs. They all seem to be lighthearted and having fun,” says artist Suzanne Shifflett.
“Michelle Heyman is an openly gay athlete who proudly represented Australia at the Rio Olympics in 2016,” explains artist Kim Leutwyler. This colorful portrait for the athlete depicts her passion, desire to be a role model for kids, and how she “openly speaks out against bullying, encouraging young people to be their authentic selves.”
Sign up for the Well+Good TALK: Love Out Loud, celebrating pride as the fight for equality continues, on June 23, 2021.
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