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Above image credit: Vy Nguyen’s written explanation of her work as part of a photo gallery of local LGBTQ artists, (Ji Stribling | Flatland)
In this series of photos, Flatland was invited to the studios of seven different artists, ages 18 to 40. There, we were able to delve into their creative spaces and find out how their work connects them to
LGBTQIA + community.
The following digital galleries, photographed by Ji Stribling of Flatland, are explained in the same words as the artists.
Vy Nguyen, 18
Hi, my name is Vy Nguyen. I am an 18 year old Vietnamese-American artist who identifies as bisexual. The film not only serves as a way to express my personal feelings and identities, it also serves as a way to tell the stories of other people through it and, more importantly, the stories that may be less common. I made my first LGBTQ + movie titled “Woman” in November 2020 about a trans woman and the anxiety she felt as she got ready for her blind date. That film became a catalyst for the themes surrounding my future projects. I realized that I wanted to produce works that made people feel something, whether it was laughter or tears, I wanted them to hear everything. The creation of that film also prompted me to explore my identities, both the struggles and why I am proud to identify myself as certain identities. Another work I did, “The Box We Bring” (April 2021), also alludes to a queer relationship despite not being the central theme.
Beautiful Grace Cordero, 20 years old
Much of my work revolves around sex topics. As a queer artist, I have found peace by processing trauma through photography and film. Art has allowed me to understand myself as an artist and my sexuality.
Cooking is something I’ve been hiding for a long time. It was something I did with my family, and as I got older, that relationship weakened; and, in turn, also my relationship with the kitchen. I came out just over two years ago and around that time I started finding jobs in the kitchens. The more I was there, the more my creative flow began to flow out. For a while, I felt nothing, like I didn’t have a purpose. It wasn’t until my first fine dining experience that I began to realize that food is where my heart and soul are. And the more I let it out, the more I let it out and the more I feel free to be. Cooking helps me express myself in ways I’ve never found before. It is a constant challenge, but also my comfort zone. Also, I LOVE the food! I’m not a chef, but I can definitely say that I hope to own that title someday.
Mak Allen, 27
As a child, I was always referred to as “boyish” and a “tomboy”, as I preferred more hands-on, dirtier, and outdoor activities. My interests were somewhat obscure then. The first things I vividly remember obsessing over were swamp mummies, supernatural phenomena of ghosts and spirits, and the cycle of life and death (especially reincarnation). From an early age, as a child, I ventured alone in the woods, in ponds, lakes and streams, in the fields in search of hidden treasures, from old barns to old rocks to old bones. I was fascinated by the macabre, but sobering, fragility of life and was truly awed by it. I think these interests followed me into adulthood as much as my homosexuality: from a weird and peculiar child to a weird and confident adult. Queerness was like an “other” part of myself that made people uncomfortable or uncomfortable. I think my art can make a lot of people feel this way, but once I started to put aside the stigmas and taboos of these parts of myself, I found that they were all the parts that made the most sense to me and that I liked the best. I truly found my community in the world when I put aside all my fears of judgment or grins, both about how I live my life and what I do with it..
Tanit K, 34
My name is Tanith K. I am a 34 year old non-binary / trans bicon who currently lives in Kansas City. I didn’t fully understand my relationship with queerness until my late twenties. I denied my bisexuality for many long years, wrapped tightly in internalized homophobias and biphobias common in the 1990s. Never mind the complicated gender relationship beyond all of this! It wasn’t until the age of 27 when a friend of mine at the time about 20 years older than me started embarking on their own gender journey. I had never thought that being trans was an option until then and having a non-binary identity wasn’t even on the radar. Sharing their story with me changed my perspective on so many things. I got out two years later at 29.
Much of my art revolves around my relationship with my sexuality and gender identity. I ponder how I can be both hypervisible and deliberately invisible to so many people. It is complex, full of contradictions, known and unknown. I aim to capture the struggle and the joy of living authentically with nuances in a world that requires manufactured authenticity and one-dimensionality.
Wolfe Brack, 39 years old
I identify as a black gay cis. I don’t often deal with my quirkiness directly in my art, but I feel it offers a more inclusive perspective in my curating practice. Being part of two intersecting minority communities forces me to look for opportunities to target underrepresented artists and experiences. I also collaborate with Electrosexual, a group of queer creatives who host safe and inclusive LGBTQ + parties in the area.
Hugo Ximello-Salido, 40 years old
I am an artist of Mexican origin who finds inspiration in the traditions and colors of Mexican culture. My work explores the intersection of culture, language and personal experience without losing sight of universal human themes. Through art, he hopes to stimulate a kind of fascination in the viewer to stimulate a kind of fascination in the viewer that transforms the imagination with a sense of beauty.
As a Mexican native, culture and tradition are a vital part of my heritage. As a Mexican-American, I am fascinated by the dialogue between different cultures and traditions. As an artist, I explore personal experiences, emotions and connections through the lens of my past and present to create a vibrant future. Through my work, I strive to raise social awareness of the many parts of my intersectional identity and my experience as a Mexican-American member of the LGBTQ community.
My early works focus on the legacy of Mexican culture and its collision with the American experience. The main inspirations include the Mexican colonial style, “La Catrina” (the elegant skull) and other culturally significant symbols such as La Loteria Mexicana (Mexican bingo), papel picado (perforated tissue paper) and Talavera. I use a variety of materials, including acrylic paint, ink, gel, sand, papier mache, spray paint, and more to modernize, revive, and reinvent the Mexican art that inspires me.
Through each piece, I try to convey a unique but universal sense of being, feeling or thought. I hope to challenge the stereotypes, commercialization and commodification and arbitrary barriers we create between our shared humanity. My point of view emerges from different perspectives on language, cultural differences, race, cultural bias and more. My process is meditative and expressive, an expulsion of demons and a dispensation of beauty.
By creating original artwork inspired by Mexican folklore, diverse communities and everyday experiences, I strive to bridge the gap between past and present as a modern Mexican-American artist.
Ji Stribling is a student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a reportage intern at Kansas City PBS.