From Heart to Art: An Inside Look at Loyola’s Queer Art Scene

A drawing by Loyola senior Keyana Scott recently greeted visitors in the Damen Student Center on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. The all-black sketch lets the viewer envision themselves in the piece, as thin black lines conceal the figure’s face. Flowing from the black wiry hair is one word: “POWER.”

Scott, a 21-year-old art history major, said it was a self-portrait of sorts.

“It signifies the power I have within myself as a black, queer woman and the power I want to unveil in others around me,” Scott said. “It’s a commentary on the idea of power and what it really means.”

Courtesy of Keyana Scott Loyola senior Keyana Scott displayed her drawing “power” at the Queer Art Showcase in Damen Oct. 28.

She said her artwork represents her journey. And that journey is not just as an artist, but as someone who’s part of Loyola’s queer art scene. This was central to an exhibit called the Queer Art Showcase at Damen, sponsored by Loyola’s Student Diversity & Multicultural Affairs (SDMA). 

The aim of the event was to encourage queer artists — students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer — to express themselves and their art in a safe space.

Queer art typically goes unnoticed, according to 20-year-old C.S. Henderson. 

“I think queer art is present in spaces but I don’t think it’s often recognized as queer art or by queer artists,” said Henderson, an SDMA employee who supports LGBTQ students at Loyola. “There’s a lack of recognition in the art community.”

The Oct. 28 event was small but powerful, with five artists showcasing their art — whether in photos, paintings, drawings, sculptures or poems — for several dozen visitors.

“A lot of the pieces … are about people accepting themselves or coming out or finding themselves,” said Henderson, a junior film and digital media major. “I’ve seen a lot of things celebrating bodies, gender, sex, identities and being queer. I think that’s really beautiful.”

One of the artists at the show, Bri, a mathematics major who asked The Phoenix not to use a last name to avoid being outed publicly, attempts to bring beauty into every photo.

“My photography is about things I find interesting and things I find beautiful,” the 20-year-old said. “A lot of times, there’s overlap and they’re the same things.”

Bri’s photos attempt to capture life in the form of people, flowers and animals. In one of the photos, shot from a low angle, Bri’s foster sister is comfortably sprawled on a tree branch.

Courtesy of Bri Loyola student Bri displayed her photo “The Perfect Shot” at the Queer Art Showcase in Damen Oct. 28.

“I love life in my photos,” Bri said. “I like the little moments of life you capture people in.”

Some of the photos can’t be safely shared outside of the queer art scene, according to Bri. 

“I’m not out as queer at home and some of this photography would immediately out me,” Bri said.

Despite the suppression of queer art in the overall art scene, 21-year-old Kira Hutson sees no limits to her artwork and the mediums she uses. The advocacy and social change and women studies gender studies double major combines poetry, digital media and photography. 

Hutson connects all of these mediums through one specific lens: color. 

“After I write a good amount of poetry, I will categorize each poem if I think it exudes a color,” the senior said.

Once Hutson has enough work to fit into the color scheme, she’ll compile them into a digital collage and photograph the sheet in an environment of the artwork’s color, such as white flowers for the white poems.

Courtesy of Kira Huston Loyola senior Kira Huston displayed her digital collage “Scarlet” at the Queer Art Showcase in Damen Oct. 28.

Hutson said her favorite is one titled “Scarlet,” which is a scattering of poems in different fonts with bursts of fierce red swirls dancing across the white page. 

“In the poems, I consider what blood means in terms of war, the body’s biology and heritage,” Hutson said. “Through heritage, I also explore intergenerational trauma and my family’s immigration story.”

The junior said her work doesn’t always center around being queer. A few of her poems are about her sexual orientation and her partner, but her work mainly centers around her ideas and beliefs. 

“It’s more about how I as an individual interact with the subject, not that the subject of my art defines me or the work,” Hutson said. 

Henderson said the typical narrative of queer art is negative and commends the queer art scene at Loyola for its positivity.

“A lot of things you see in the media about LGBTQ art all surrounds trauma and being sad,” she said. “I just wanted to see a celebration of us for once and see happiness, growth and beauty.”

Scott said she’s currently working on bundling multiple artworks together to convey her growth as an artist and the struggles she’s faced with calling herself an artist. The collection will be titled “Process.”

“In the very beginning, I really struggled calling myself an artist because I didn’t feel like an artist,” Scott said.

After hurdling this problem, the senior now has a mission statement to prove. 

“Anyone can be an artist, everyone is an artist,” Scott said.

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