Written by Millie Throp
As a keen LGBTQIA+ community ally and RuPaul’s Drag-Race obsessor, I felt that this week’s blog post should be dedicated to The North’s queer arts scene and those working within these themes. After the final of Drag Race UK on Thursday (18th March – I won’t reveal the winner), I continue to be stunned by the talent and the powerful stories told within the community. I hope to create a space for conversation within this post and showcase some talented individuals.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to 24 year-old artist Jordan Roberts. Jordan strives to create and showcase beauty in all its forms and destroy stigmas. His work strongly revolves around HIV activism but he also works as a portrait photographer and has recently began to further develop his craftsmanship by practicing pottery.
In 2019 he founded the project ‘To Whom It May Concern’. The project consisted of intimate workshops and safe-spaces for those living with HIV to share stories and vulnerabilities. The space also provided education into the effects of living with HIV to those visiting the exhibition. Below is one beautiful result of Jordan’s workshops, introducing us to Asia, shot on film, and his story.
Other than feeling affected by ‘It’s A Sin’ earlier this year, I had not witnessed the implications AIDS and so I feel that these kinds of conversation should continue to be made public. The topics are dealt with in such sensitivity and beauty by Jordan.
In 2020, Superbia agreed to fund a second workshop. The pandemic has meant that this exhibition currently exists as an impactful but charming 20 minute video that you can watch below. I have no doubt that when it is able to go ahead as a physical exhibition it will be one not to miss. You can keep up to date with Jordan’s work on his Instagram @JordaRoberts.
Artist, Jason Carr, based in South Manchester, he also works within portraiture. Jason uses portraits of LGBTQ+ community members to tell their stories and give them a voice. Jason’s portrait, ‘Goodnight My Darkest Friend’, appealed to me due to its juxtaposition of elements. The vibrant bouquet seemed to demonstrate a sighting of ‘inner self’ when coupled with a serious and highly-defined facial expression. I am struck with the essence of masculinity combined with the softness of the robe and background hue, each element seems reliant on each other and all exist in perfect harmony. Jason also works in themes of protest, politics, sexuality and mental health.
Kate Mary Blanchard, aka The Sober Painter, has been working in the arts since 2019 when she decided to ‘swap her pint glass for a paintbrush’. Kate identifies as queer and has been using painting as an outlet to celebrate her sobriety.
Kate recently created ARTFRIENDS which provides a platform for all artists and art lovers, living and working in recovery or with mental health disadvantages that prevent them from marketing themselves in the art world. Kate has also educated herself in the crypto art market during lockdown, she is using this platform to challenge gender bias in the art world. ARTFRIENDS clothing also donates to alcohol awareness charities. Her work is always named according to the number of days sober, the above piece features the word trash 487 times.
Daniel Mark Welsh is a queer, working class artist from a small town in Yorkshire, being ‘terribly camp’ and ‘not fitting in that well’, he left as soon as was practical, he currently lives in Manchester. Dan studied Fashion at University which is clear in his working style, often working in quick sketches. Dan’s sketches consist of friends and strangers, his portraits, however, often use people close to him or people of influence within the LGBTQ+ community.
The above piece, like much of Dan’s work, uses an optimistic palette which only further boasts the flamboyancy of the character portrayed. I adore Dan’s use of storytelling, playing somewhere between obnoxious and innocent. Dan was featured by HOME in 2020 and you can watch a video of his work on the Home MCR Instagram page.
21 year-old animation student and queer artist, Charlie Spendlov, creates beautifully campy portraits that are unapologetically hyper-femme. Charlie has felt the importance of representing her strong female influences from a young age. I also believe that this is a representation we should be pushing more, especially considering recent events.
Charlie’s fun-loving portraits, such as the superwoman figure above, resonate with me in the fact that we are all super people in our own right. I have always had this view, particularly on LGBTQIA+ community members who have often experienced immense hardship and prejudice, something that I have never had to endure as a heterosexual, white, cisgender woman. Charlie’s work can be found at @St.Splendlov on Instagram.
Our final artist is Matylda Augustynek, Polish Artist based in Manchester. I learned a lot when exploring Matylda’s series, ‘Private’, which focuses on derogative ideologies surrounding the LGBTQ+ community in Poland. It can be easy, especially as a straight person, to believe that homophobic ideals have lessened globally. Matylda demonstrates that this is not the case in the below image, recently showcased in GOAT Magazine.
When president of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski, signed a declaration aiming for anti-discrimination and sex education in every school, including issues of psychosexual identity and gender identity, this event was a starting point for the ruling party to begin war towards LGBTQ+ movements and openly encouraged hateful speech. Jaroslaw Kaczynski who is Poland’s current leader for Law and Justice (PiS), is acknowledging this action as an “attack on the polish family and children”. Charlie’s work shows an image of contemplation and inevitable tiredness of ideals that should be non-existent in the 21st Century.
In 2019, it became the case that secondary schools in England would be educated in sexual orientation and gender identity. You can find out more about this on Stonewall’s website, and help to combat negative perceptions by buying and sharing the work of queer artists, spreading love and campness in the mainstream.
Who doesn’t need more of that their lives, ay?
Our guest blogger is Millie Throp, she says, ‘I am a final-year Fashion Art Direction student based in Manchester. My intentions include image-making and collaborative practise. I have a love for community and craft, often incorporating a sense of humour and light-hearted narrative in my work. I can be found at @milliethrop and www.milliethrop.com.