More than ever, there is a bounty of LGBTIA+ artists capturing the complexity of queerness, sexuality, and gender. These artists work in a variety of modes, from abstract painting to NFTs, to challenge the historical obscuring of queerness in art and to celebrate their gender and sexual identities.
This growing community of artists is inventing a new visual language to depict love and intimacy, often leaning into ambiguity. Painter TM Davy looks to water as a recurring motif while Doron Langberg’s paintings straddle the line between abstraction and figuration. Hannah Roemer is remaking art-historical portraiture by depicting lesbians, who have long been made invisible, and Prince Jacon Osinachi is challenging expectations of Nigerian men.
Though their subjects and methods are diverse, all of these artists are connected through their depictions and evocations of queer mystery: the idea that queerness exists beyond societal assumptions in an ambiguous space full of fluidity and indeterminancy. This can be seen in the artists’ rendering of nudity and love as when two desirous queer bodies find intimacy beyond explicit sexual contact.
Read on to see how these 8 queer artists are rewriting how we understand sensuality, love, and mystery.
Doron Langberg: Willy and Alan, 2022.
Israeli-born painter Doron Langberg’s paintings are not what they seem. At first sight, his paintings might appear abstract. On a deeper gaze, however, one can see that a visible form is captured. The artist plays with oil paints to understand how color shapes the meaning of certain images.
Langberg’s use of bold hues is imaginative, eccentric, and exact. Langberg wants queer love to speak boldly in his paintings; Willy and Alan, a piece exhibited at the Swiss edition of Art Basel earlier this year, depicts two nude lovers in a post-coital peace in a blaze of vibrant reds and oranges.
TM Davy: Sun and Sand and Wounds and Love, 2021
TM Davy’s artistic approach involves using warmly textured hues to communicate deep emotion. During the summers, Davy works en plein-air, composing water and sun-kissed scenes from his life on Fire Island, a noted queer mecca in New York. In doing so, he rewrites the tradition, dating to the 19th century, into an explicitly queer context.
Often he paints naked men and queer people submerging themselves in these oceans, imbuing them with mystery and sensuality. His paintings, often of queer lovers on beaches express intense emotions while also remaining naturalistic.
Prince Jacon Osinachi, Wallflower, 2022
Growing up in Aba, Nigeria, Prince Jacon Osinachi was hyper-aware of Nigerian society’s conservatism, its expectations of masculinity, and its perceptions of those who buck those unwritten rules. These societal standards and perceptions are the backdrop to his evocative work depicting femme men, androgyny, gender identities, and sexuality.
Osinachi is primarily a digital artist who has found success selling NFTs such as sand castle, which depicts a black man building a sand castle on his knees, while another man, cut off at the waist, stands behind. In his recent art piece Wallflower, posted during Pride Month, Osinachi depicts a gender-fluid person dressed in a bright pink dress covered in flowers. The subject appears blissful, showing the euphoria that can result from using clothing to embrace one’s authentic self expression.
Daniel Ortiz: Hurts so good, 2021
The works of Brooklyn-born painter Daniel Ortiz don’t broadcast their intent, but rather revel in mystery while also embracing sensuality as a form of self-actualization. Ortiz, whose subjects include nude bodies, sexual tensions, masculine seductiveness, and passionate romance, paints with a contemplative delicateness.
Hurts so good, a recent oil painting on wood, is enigmatic and overtly sexual — we understand why the man is bent over, eyes closed, mouth postured as if moaning, but we can’t find his lover. The painting speaks of bittersweet pleasure and captures the nuances of sexual beauty.
Hannah Roemer: Chrysalis, 2020
German painter Hannah Roemer understands sexual vulnerability. She tries to create a world where her muses aren’t afraid to express their sexual desires. In her paintings, she offers imagery associated with pornography — women-on-women, female masturbation, nudity — and rescues it from the white male gaze.
Drawing on styles associated with Surrealism, Roemer creates beguiling images in her most recent paintings such as not if it’s you, which shows a trans man caressing a woman’s head without a body, her long hair draped over his knees.
Naima Green: The swell, 2021
When New York–based artist Naima Green isn’t photographing muses like Kehlani and Solange Knowles for magazine covers, she captures her fiancée and her friends, spotlighting lovely queer moments from vacations to relationships and more.
In the swell, Green photographs a boat cruise with queer women in swimwear celebrating the birthday of a friend. It’s a perfect moment of joy and banter is expressed.
Nathanail Evan Linardis: Love that contrast in this one, 2022
Nathanail Evan Linardis is transgender and autistic. Growing up, he used painting as his primary tool to express his thoughts and emotions. Now, with years of experience translating the poetry of the mind to the canvas, Linardis details queer love and intimacy in his works.
When Linardis isn’t painting queer, trans, and hetero intimacy, he paints abstract figures—dark blue wavy lines with lucid white brush indents that look similar to stars in a galaxy .
Boris Torres: A wounded man, 2022
Boris Torres wants to see more queer portraits in museums and art galleries. Torres, who is of Ecuadorian descent and is based in the U.S., paints from an intersectional perspective, focusing on queer culture in Latin America and the U.S, and highlighting queer family, love, and identity.
In his recent painting a wounded man, Torres captures two lovers lying down in each other’s warm embrace in a room partially patched with darkness. In this ambiguous intimacy, their bodies communicate with each other.