Art has been one of the primary ways queer people have been able to express ourselves in times when our very existence seems to be in danger. If people won’t see us, we’ll make ourselves seen — even if it is just to let others like us know we’re not alone. These five queer art exhibits currently on display celebrate the power of our community’s creativity to help push society and culture forward.
David Bowie Is at the Brooklyn Museum
David Bowie arrived at just the right time. Stonewall was giving birth to the Pride movement, Brenda Howard was coordinating New York’s first Pride march and Sweden was offering free hormone therapy for transgender people. With his painted eyelids and lips, gender-busting outfits and lyrics so queer they turned the entire world onto a different perspective on what it means to be alive, David Bowie was an icon for all those who felt different.
This exhibit, paying tribute to the core of Bowie’s groundbreaking identity — his creativity — is concluding its worldwide tour at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. A multimedia collection of hundreds of objects incluing costumes, handwritten lyrics, photos and videos animate Bowie’s brilliance and power as a queer artist.
The exhibit is open through July 15. It’s free for museum members, $20 for non-members.
David Hockney: 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art
David Hockney’s art emerged around the same time as Bowie’s and is counted as a significant contribution to the pop art movement of the ’60s. Hockney contributed in his own way to representing those of us who often feel underrepresented in the world.
In 1961, when being gay was illegal in England, Hockney produced We Two Boys Together Clinging, a painting inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name. Two years later he produced Domestic Scene, Los Angeles, which depicts a man showering while another man washes his back.
New works from Hockney are on display at LACMA in Los Angeles in the exhibit 82 Portraits and 1 Still-Life. Most of the portraits of friends, family and staff important to Hockney over the past 50 years were painted in two to three days, demonstrating his passion and talent.
You can see Hockney’s intimate portraits at LACMA through the end of July.
Faces & Phases at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town
In 1993, South Africa became the first country in the world to write protections for LGBTQ people into its constitution. The nation’s Constitutional Court declared discrimination in marriage unconstitutional a full decade before the U.S. Supreme Court made a similar ruling. In South Africa men who have sex with men are allowed to donate blood, individuals are allowed to re-register their gender and prominent religious leaders have given their support to the community.
But all of those legal protections don’t necessarily translate into full acceptance and safety for LGBTQ people. That’s why artist Zanele Muholi’s work focuses on giving those individuals, particularly black lesbians, a powerful presence in South African culture. This Faces & Phases exhibit features photos from an ongoing series, a form of art as activism, in order to make sure that Muholi’s subjects are not forgotten.
If you can’t make it to the Zeitz Museum in Cape Town before June 25, Muholi’s book is available for purchase here.
TOM House: The Work and Life of Tom of Finland at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
If you are a man who breathes air and is attracted to other men, Tom of Finland needs no introduction. His incredibly detailed pencil drawings and the hyper-erotic and fantasy-like nature of the male form depicted in his work has made his art iconic, and led to last year’s biopic Tom of Finland.
In addition to Tom of Finland drawings, the TOM House exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit includes work from other artists who were influenced by Tom, as well as photographs and reference materials he used in his work.
Presented by the advocacy organization Equality Michigan, the exhibit runs through May 19.
Out for the Camera: Self-Portraits of Leonard Fink at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, NYC
Gay photographer Leonard Fink was ahead of his time. Like many photographers today, struggling to be seen in an image-saturated era, Fink is not particularly well known. And like many people today who aren’t photographers, he took a lot of photos of himself.
Most of Fink’s work focuses on the bar culture of New York City’s West Village, Pride marches and cruising spots along the waterfront in New York in the ’70s and ’80s. But this exhibit at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art puts Fink’s self-portraits on display.
The collection includes photos Fink took of himself in his apartment while hanging out with friends as well as on the same waterfront piers he photographed others. Like many of our Instagram feeds, it’s a look at exhibitionism and identity.
Catch Out for the Camera through Aug. 5.
Are there any other queer art exhibits you’re excited to catch in 2018? Sound off in the comments.
Featured image via David Bowie is/MCA Chicago/Chris Duffy