By Amelia, Vivian, and Sharon
The LGBT+ Artists Project is a series which aims to feature young LGBT+ artists and give them a platform to promote and speak about their art. In each issue we will ask our artists a series of interview questions that explore their art and identity, as well as themes and messages surrounding their art.
This week’s artists are:
Chella Man (@chellamanart)
Pronouns: they/them (may change to he/him soon)
Queer and genderqueer
Chella is a creative who makes abstract-surrealist art about political issues relating to sexuality and gender, disability, and racism.
[Image description: Abstract black-and-white lineart of a naked form in different positions collaged together.]
[Image description: Many pen drawings of Picasso-esque faces and symbols gathered on a page, black-and-white.]
Kevalyn Bharadwaj (@keviiboy)
Kevalyn uses digital art to create surrealist, colourful landscapes and people with a graphic twist.
[Image description: Graphic of legs in yellow pants and pink shoes on a blue background, pink flowers sprouting where the torso would be and white cloud-like wisps around the subject. All colours are pale, pastel.]
[Image description: A figure with an undercut from the back, side-profile visible, against a square of blue-pink pastel clouds and a squiggle of pink colour. Pattern on the figure’s shirt is mirrored on their hair, pink and blue respectively. Artist signature at the bottom in black.]
Theo Cook (@growing.jpg)
Bi and nonbinary trans man
Theo creates cartoon-like art and pastel journal spreads about experiences with sexuality and gender, which are sold to fund their top surgery here.
[Image description: Topless person with blue jean shorts, purple shoes, and green short hair sat with a knee up, checking out their painted-purple nails. Surgery scars visible from top surgery. Purple floral tattoo on one arm. Speech bubble says: “gender? i don’t know her”.]
[Image description: Woman with short hair in beige sweater tucked into red-checked skirt stands next to man in blue polo and dark grey pants with green hair. Two speech bubbles above read: “trans women are women &”, “trans men are men (duh)”.]
We asked our artists a series of questions regarding their art, inspirations, and identity. Here are their answers!
- What got you into art?
Chella Man: Art has always been inherent. I started creating at a young age. It began with silly animal doodles and junk sculptures from scraps found lying around the house. But my art has now evolved into more of a social and/or political statement. I pull inspiration from my own life experiences and the experiences of others. In the past, I have been told that my art has inspired and pushed people to change their perspective, to become more productive, and to feel more passionate about life. This is my goal; evoking emotion is success in my eyes. Today, I am still experimenting.
[Image description: Collage of beach photo, a cut-off side of a figure standing against an overcast background, a head with the face cut out and a nipple against a black-and-white background photo of a topless form with breasts. Nipple is collaged over one breast. Small square of cut-out text reads: “THE WORLD REVOLVES”.]
Kevalyn Bharadwaj: When I was a kid, I always day dreamed about surreal scenes, figures, and creatures. I found that the only way for me to bring them into my world and to explain them to others was to manifest them through drawing, color, and sound. Trying to connect that world to mine was what pushed me into beginning art.
[Image description: Three pink flowers with green leaves, two brown legs with yellow heels sticking out under them, against a mint green background.]
Theo Cook: Honestly it's cliche but I've loved art ever since I can really remember. It’s an amazing tool of expression and being able to create whatever you want to see in the world is an empowering thing.
- Does your queer identity influence your art? How?
Chella Man: I believe my art is a visual depiction of myself in a lot of ways. Being queer obviously influences who I am, thus directly influencing any art I create.
Kevalyn Bharadwaj: Of course! Art is a form of politics and expression; the two are verbs that are inseparable and are very much dependent on the positionalities and intersectionalities of the artist and the audience. Queer communities and individuals have been one of many groups unwillingly silenced, traumatized, and politicized throughout social and historical discourses. Their traumas deserve them every right to express, flaunt, and fight. Art is Queer. Queer is Art.
Theo Cook: Without a doubt! My main subjects are LGBT+ people because they really inspire me. Not only do I think it's really empowering to show LGBT people in a positive light, but we are just so beautiful and I don't see that shown enough in art.
[Image description: A black-and-white painting of two men in suits about to kiss, a ring visible on one man’s finger, against a yellow-orange background.]
- Are there any artists that inspire you?
Chella Man: I look up to Picasso, Zio Ziegler, Egon Schiele, Robert Mapplethrope, and so so so many more artists.
Theo Cook: Other LBGT+ artists like Keith Haring, Elle Smallwood and Will Carpenter. Seeing people who also use being LGBT as a subject matter is really powerful to me.
- And finally, what message do you want to give?
Chella Man: I simply hope people are empathetic enough to understand not everyone fits into the binaries of boy and girl.
Gender is a spectrum as most things are in life. Humans are diverse, so it should be no surprise that not everyone can fit into two boxes. For example, when people ask if you are a “boy or girl,” I just say “or.”
Kevalyn Bharadwaj: I would like to express the deep interconnections of Art, Queerness, and Trauma as well as accountability to expression, power, and pride. There should be no fear in your expression, in your art, and in your life. However, your art should foster and respect the communities you represent and their histories because you are their future!
Theo Cook: Through my art I just want to show that LGBT+ people are everything they've ever been told they're not: beautiful, cute, strong and just overall as good. It's a message of empowerment and representation.
[Image description: A painted portrait of Marsha P. Johnson.]