How common is it that you go on a tattoo artist’s Instagram and absolutely fall in love with the art they create on bodies? And then you scroll through more… and start to doubt whether those tattoos would ever look good on your skin tone because they only use white people as their canvases. Ciara Havishya is a leftist tattoo artist based in Toronto and works with Sticks & Stones Tattoo. They are dedicated to creating a space for queer people of color within tattoo culture, and through their tattoos you can see the beauty in navigating those “in-between cultures,” as they phrase it. Their art is beautiful, expressive and intercultural; it speaks for itself. Everyone should immediately follow them on Instagram instead of the tattoo artists who exclusively believe their canvases can only be people with skin the color of paper.
Piece Name: “Did I Hear you Say You Love Me,” 2006.
There’s a good chance that you’ve already heard of the iconic Mickalene Thomas, but if not, welcome to an artist who makes beautifully exploratory paintings. She “introduces a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expands common definitions of beauty.” In many of her pieces, you can see her confronting Eurocentric beauty standards with powerful displays of womanhood that aren’t considered conventionally attractive. She also uses pop art to exemplify these explorations of femininity further, and is most well known for her usage of rhinestones, glitter and acrylic. You can discover more of Mickalene’s artwork on her website.
“Nuwabian Princess,” (2013)
Juliana Huxtable wears many hats: She’s an artist, a DJ, a writer and a performer. She
was born in Bryan-College Station, Texas, and her work was mainly on the internet before she came to public knowledge. The most intriguing aspect of her work is how she draws from her experience of all her years on the internet — specifically, from her posts on Tumblr and other social media sites. Generally, having aspects of that in her artwork may makes it seem less serious or meaningful, but she challenges this notion very successfully. You can follow her on Twitter @julianahuxtable, on Instagram with the same @ name, and listen to her music on Soundcloud.
"Find yourself through me,” (2006)
Nao Bustamante is an artist known for her work in performance art, video installation, visual art, filmmaking and writing. She is most well known for using her body’s full potential in her art. One of Nao’s most iconic pieces was “Rosa Does Joan” (1992). It was, in her own terms, a performance art prank. She appeared on an episode of the “Joan Rivers Show” as a character named Rosa, whose life story and background was mainly fabricated. Rosa was a kinky, sex-positive character, which, displayed on such a large platform, was such an innovative and revolutionary piece for its time as most of Rivers’ audience was “Middle America” — people who would have been stunned at someone like that on Joan’s show. You can follow Nao on Twitter, or learn more about her and her other pieces on her website.
Out of everyone in this list, Janelle Monáe is definitely one of the most popular figures in the public eye right now. However, I am including her on this list because she has consistently made incredibly beautiful music, and her latest album, Dirty Computer, is no exception. Along with her album, she also made “Emotion Picture” that accompanied the musical portion of her album. She has historically shaken the table with music that consistently pushes societal boundaries, and she will continue to do so. Stream Dirty Computer on Spotify or Apple Music, and watch her emotion picture.
These are only five people who make excellent art, and there are many more queer artists of color, but if you were interested in supporting some, this is simply a starting point! Remember: if you find any, boost them as much as possible, and share their art with others who will appreciate the content they create.