LGBT artists have continually challenged mainstream understandings of gender and sexuality, and the impact of this on our society is immeasurable. Like artists of the 1980s who worked tirelessly to bring attention to HIV/AIDS in America, artists today maintain their roles as leading figures striving for change and cultural awareness.
As Pride Month comes to a close, we would like to showcase a number of LGBT artists who have influenced the progress of art and society throughout the past hundred years or so. While this list is in no way comprehensive, we hope to highlight some of the many creative individuals who as members of the LGBT community have put their unique stamp on art history.
Check out the list below of amazing LGBT artists who have irrevocably changed the art world and beyond with their work. You can help us to increase this list by adding your favorite LGBT artists to the comments section below. To see more, we ran a tribute to "Artists Who Passed Away From AIDS" yesterday. Spoiler alert: It's a real bummer.
At the age of 26, <a href="http://baltrop.org/" target="_hplink">Alvin Baltrop </a> began photographing Manhattan's West Side piers, an area of refuge for queer teenage runaways as well as a stage for the city's underground gay scene. The stark reality conveyed in Baltrop's photographs was not well received by the mainstream art world, and so his work was largely ignored until after his death. But the thousands of images captured by Baltrop between 1975 and 1986 stand as remnants of a New York City community rarely captured before or after. IMAGE: Alvin Baltrop, Navy Sailors, 1969--72, Gelatin-silver print (2011), 8.5 x 12.75 inches. Courtesy of The Alvin Baltrop Trust and Third Streaming (NY).
<a href="http://www.zanelemuholi.com/about me.htm" target="_hplink">Zanele Muholi</a> is a South African photographer whose work has focused primarily on the black female body and its historical representation in documentary film. She has also worked as a community relations officer for the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), a black lesbian organisation based in Gauteng, and as a photographer and reporter for Behind the Mask, an online magazine on lesbian and gay issues in Africa.
As an openly gay video-artist born in Trinidad, the work of <a href="http://www.richardfung.ca/" target="_hplink">Richard Fung</a> investigates a broad spectrum of issues ranging from homophobia and AIDS to colonialism, immigration and Asian identity. He's also published a number of essays and teaches in the Integrated Media program at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, where he now resides.
<a href="http://mickalenethomas.com/" target="_hplink">Mickalene Thomas</a> is a New York-based artist known for her ornate paintings decorated with rhinestones, enamel and acrylic. Her work has been praised for representing a female perspective of same-sex desires as well as various moments of African-American culture. IMAGE: MICKALENE THOMAS, Sleep: Deux Femmes Noires, 2011 mixed media collage, 23.75 x 31.25 inches (paper)
<a href="http://www.reenaspaulings.com/WK.htm" target="_hplink">K8 Hardy</a> is a multimedia artist whose photographs, performance pieces and sculptures explore issues of class, race and gender. In her photos, she often places herself as the subject of her own work, responding to the traditional practice of male artists objectifying female models. She is also a founding member of the queer feminist journal and artist collective LTTR, and some of her work is permanently housed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
<a href="http://felixgonzalez-torresfoundation.org/" target="_hplink">Félix González-Torres</a> was a Cuban-born American visual artist best known for his minimal installations and sculptures that were considered to be reflections of his experience with AIDS. During his lifetime, González-Torres was also a member of Group Material, an artistic collaboration geared toward cultural activism and community education. IMAGE: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Perfect Lovers), 1987-1990. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. Gift of the Norton Family Foundation. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Photo: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY.
Ellsworth Kelly has been an ardent explorer of color spectrums and panel paintings, dabbling in painting, printmaking and sculpting. Comparing Kelly to contemporary Jasper Johns, the Chelsea art dealer Matthew Marks who now represents Kelly told <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/arts/design/ellsworth-kelly-explorer-of-shape-line-and-color.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">The New York Times,</a> "To a great extent Jasper is a literary artist. His work is coded with secret messages. Ellsworth is purely a visual artist. With Ellsworth there is no message, just an experience."
<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/11/arts/design/rotimi-fani-kayode-nothing-to-lose.html" target="_hplink">Rotimi Fani-Kayode </a>was a Nigerian photographer whose stylized portraits addressed themes of sexuality and race, especially the tensions between his homosexual identity and Yoruba upbringing. He was also an active participant in the artistic discourse surrounding HIV and AIDS in the 1980s.
<a href="http://briankenny.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Brian Kenny</a>'s art - typified by his deconstruction of American flags - explores his multiple roles as an American citizen, a supporter of the Occupy Movement, and a gay man. As he told the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/brian-kennys-hole_n_1612236.html" target="_hplink">Huffington Post</a>, "I'm proud to be an American and my Russian boyfriend just recently became an American citizen, but we both find it ridiculous that even after eight years together we still don't have access to collective rights as a couple that heterosexual people have in marriage. And, like many Occupy supporters, I feel discontent with the current political and economic system that allows for so much corruption and social injustice."
The work of <a href="http://www.cytwombly.info/" target="_hplink">Cy Twombly</a>, a painter, sculptor and calligraphist, ranged from large-scale graffiti paintings to "romantic symbolist" pieces that echoed classical myths and allegories. Like Rauschenberg and Johns, Twobmly is considered to be an influential member of the movement away from the masculine themes of abstract expressionism.
<a href="http://www.bobrauschenberggallery.com/rauschenberg_biography.htm" target="_hplink">Robert Rauschenberg </a>was well known for his "Combines" of the 1950s, which utilized used materials to create hybrid works that sat somewhere between paintings and sculptures. His collaborative work with contemporary artists like Cy Twombly and Jasper Johns contributed to the multi-disciplinary aspects of the transition from abstract expressionism to pop art.
<a href="http://www.vaginaldavis.com/" target="_hplink">Vaginal Davis</a> is an American performing artist associated with a number of conceptual art bands and the formation of the Queer-Core Zine Movement. In Davis' performances, she portrays a range of characters that draw from her own relationships as well as fictional imaginations.
<a href="http://www.dallasgoethecenter.org/hannah.htm" target="_hplink">Hannah Höch</a> was a German Dada artist best known as one of the creators of photomontage. As one of the only accepted female members of the Berlin Dada group, she became acutely cognizant of gender inequality in media and art, and her work tackled themes of women's rights, marriage and domesticity, later depicting images that pieced male and female identities together.
<a href="http://www.hockneypictures.com/" target="_hplink">David Hockney</a> is considered by many to be one of the most famous living painters in Britain, praised for his playful, pop-primitivist works. He combines cubism with a cartoonish flare to create art that has remained popular for over 30 years. IMAGE: Winter Timber, 2009 , Oil on fifteen canvases , 274.3 x 609.6 cm (each 91.4 x 121.9 cm), Private collection, © David Hockney, Photo credit: Jonathan Wilkinson.
<a href="http://www.fridakahlo.com/" target="_hplink">Frida Kahlo</a>, the famous Mexican painter and wife of Diego Rivera, was celebrated for her depiction of indigenous traditions as well as for her dedicated portrayals of the female experience. During her lifetime, Frida produced nearly 200 paintings, drawings and sketches that explored her personal struggles with physical and emotional pain and the various relationships she had with men and women.
<a href="http://www.mapplethorpe.org/" target="_hplink">Robert Mapplethorpe</a> was an American photographer known for his large-scale, black and white portraits and male nudes that expressed an open and honest fascination with homoeroticism. During his lifetime he photographed a number of celebrities including Andy Warhol and Patti Smith. IMAGE: Photo of Robert Mapplethorpe, Courtesy of Lee Black Childers, Redferns / Getty Images
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/israeli-artist-adi-nes_n_1499681.html" target="_hplink">Adi Nes</a> is a gay Israeli artist whose work, including his latest -- "The Village," explores concepts of masculinity and power. He has been praised by Richard Goldstein at the Village voice for his unique vision, who stated, "No young artist has so vividly captured the hidden cost of victory, the fine line between power and fragility, the interplay of arrogance and despair that shapes wartime identity."
<a href="http://www.theartstory.org/gallery-betty-parsons.htm" target="_hplink">Betty Parsons</a> was an American artist and art dealer famous for opening the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1946. The gallery was known for jumpstarting the careers of several abstract expressionists including Jackson Pollock, Ellsworth Kelly, and Mark Rothko.
<a href="http://www.zackarydrucker.com/" target="_hplink">Zackary Drucker</a> is a transgender performance artist whose participatory pieces confront perceptions of gender and sexuality. The artist, who uses a female pronoun, has said that she envisions her work to be "a platform to exorcize my struggle with self-acceptance." IMAGE: Zackary Drucker and Amos Mac, "Distance is where the heart is, Home is where you hang your heart," #13, 2011, digital pigment print, 36 x 54 in, Courtesy of Luis De Jesus, Los Angeles.
<a href="http://www.aliceneel.com/" target="_hplink">Alice Neel</a> was an American artist known for her oil painting portaits. In 1970, Neel was commissioned to paint the feminist activist Kate Millett for the cover of Time magazine and throughout the 1970s remained an icon for the feminist movement.
Anni Leibovitz is one of the most famous American portrait photographers and has captured an array of popular culture in the United States and beyond, including her infamous work for The Rolling Stones.
<a href="http://www.ppowgallery.com/selected_work.php?artist=14" target="_hplink">David Wojnarowicz</a> was a painter, photographer and performance artist who incorporated personal narratives from his own life and others to create alternative histories depicted through his art. In the late 1980s he was diagnosed with AIDS, prompting his video piece "Fire in my Belly." His work continued to be affected by both his struggle with AIDS as well as his political activism until his death in 1992.
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge made up the single pandrogynous entity, Breyer P-Orridge. In contrast to transvestism or transgender, their concept of <a href="http://www.believermag.com/exclusives/?read=interview_p-orridge_rushkoff" target="_hplink">pandrogeny </a>eliminated ideas of genders entirely, focusing on the union of opposites. In pursuit of this union, the two performance artists/musicians underwent a series of identical body modifications in order to transcend the binary world of gender. The ongoing experimentation spurred several mixed-media exhibitions including "Painful But Fabulous."
<a href="http://www.jasperjohns.com/" target="_hplink">Jasper Johns</a>, the famous painter of flags, maps and targets, formed a creative community in the 1950s with fellow artists Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham and John Cage. The work of Rauschenberg and Jasper in particular challenged the machismo of abstract expressionism.
Laurie Toby Edison
<a href="http://www.laurietobyedison.com/" target="_hplink">Laurie Toby Edison</a> began as a visual artist who focused on jewelry and sculpture, and has since moved to photography as well. She became involved with the feminist movement when she was in her 30s, guiding her work with the "Women En Large" project and "Familiar Men," reflections on the nude in art.
Gilbert & George
<a href="http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/gilbert_and_george/" target="_hplink">Gilbert & George</a> is the dapper collaborative duo responsible for the large scale photo works, "The Pictures." The artists' work has been both praised and criticized for its subversive and provocative content, as it explores themes of religion, sexuality, race and urban life.
The great pop artist <a href="http://www.haring.com/" target="_hplink">Keith Haring</a> was well known as an internationally famed artist as well as a social activist during his 31 years of life. After he was diagnosed with AIDS, the artist established the Keith Haring Foundation seeking to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations across the country. Haring died in 1990, but his expressive images of birth, death, sex and war remain iconic works of the 20th century.
<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/26/arts/design/26opie.html?pagewanted=all" target="_hplink">Catherine Opie</a> is a lesbian artist whose photography examines American identity through iconic images and redefinitions of landscapes. She has investigated members of the LGBT community, surfers and football players though her documentary photography projects.
<a href="http://rogallery.com/Abbot-Bernice/Abbot-bio.htm" target="_hplink">Berenice Abbott </a> was an American photographer known for capturing the urban designs and architecture of New York City in the 1930s. She was also a self-proclaimed lesbian in the early 20th century who worked with art greats such as Man Ray and Eugene Atget.
<a href="http://www.isaacjulien.com/home" target="_hplink">Isaac Julien</a> is an installation artist and filmmaker who rose to cult fame with his 1989 documentary <em>Looking for Langston</em>. Much of his work addresses black and gay identity as he attempts to break down disciplinary barriers by incorporating dance, photography, painting and sculpture in film.