Midway through June and we’re immersing ourselves in the peak of Pride. Full showings of pink are starting to pop up on the streets, declarations of allyship are being made and at the heart of it all, the message of love, for all, is abound. Pride parades are happening both offline and in the digital space, as Decentraland takes Pride to the metaverse with Metaverse Pride 2022. In addition to the rainbow-inspired stage, design shows by LGBTQIA+ friendly Web3 coalitions and a flamboyant array of stage performances by queer artists, there will also be an entire Pride Panel Series for open, educational discussions—a perfect pitstop for learning more about our often marginalised communities.
Should you be looking to garner a more nuanced and intimate understanding of our queer communities however, perhaps consider exploring the world of queer NFT art, allowing its evocative, communicative power to take the lead instead. Within the multifarious art universe, the presence of NFTs—digital, blockchain-led artworks—is no longer one that can be neglected. But what do we know of the queer, digital art realm? Seemingly obscure, the potential the subset actually holds is hardly surprising. The promise of art after all, is akin to what the metaverse proffers as well: one of a limitless landscape, where you can take your imagination wherever you want it to go. It can be aspirational, rebellious in character and yet unabashedly easy to embrace.
At the heart of it then, the NFT scape is a near faultless canvas for unrestrained self-expression—most especially for queer art—where an artist holds the creative power to disrupt the norm, influence emotion and empower these marginalised communities. Below, we highlight some of the most distinctive NFT artists advocating for queer communities through their art: from FEWOCiOUS’s interpretations of his own lived experiences as a transgender youth to a lesbian couple instigating social critique through the sale of their marriage certificate.
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As part of Pride Month this year, SuperRare, the Web3 marketplace, extended their hand to three queer artists to curate exhibitions that will reach both the digital and the phygital world—and Laurel Charleston was one of them. Her SuperTrans exhibition that debuted in a physical gallery space in Soho, New York, was a unifying experience for 11 other transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists who have dealt their hand in the crypto art world.
As a surreal makeup artist herself, much of her personal pieces utilise the human body—sometimes her own—as a transformative canvas that renders her audiences to imagine an imaginary, fantastical landscape for intensely powerful characterisation. Her latest NFT ‘Celestial Perception’ is an “untouchable alien deity”, illuminated and physically enhanced in the foreground of a dark, galactic-like landscape.
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Victor Langlois’s first ever NFT art listing on SuperRare, titled ‘i Always Think of You’, sold for just a little over $1000 back in August 2020. Barely a year later, a series of his art called ‘Hello, i’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and This Is My Life’ crashed the auction house platform Christie’s, where the NFTs for his paintings were being listed. But perhaps the desirability of his art was not only imminent, but also well-deserved. After all, the game-changing series of had been a graphic documentation of his troubled childhood and gender transition—that felt like a fever dream he’d never want to relive.
Growing up, he had always been plagued by fear, first of his abusive father, and then of his religious grandparents who could not accept his trans identity and were overtly controlling over him. His unbearable environment was what led him to find solace in art: he did it in his free time, which he had a lot of being stuck at home, and eventually he made the move to digital where his grandparents would not be able to see what he was drawing.
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Operator is an art house coalition started by award-winning Los Angeles-based artist duo Dejha Ti and Ania Catherine. Much of their work delves into an immersion of emotional and psychological states, drawing audiences into a feeling, rather than physically transporting them elsewhere. Their pivotal installation titled ‘On View’ that was commissioned by the SCAD Museum of Art discusses the generational aspiration to be the subject of art, questioning the idea of surveillance, how technology is gendered, and the strange, legalised spaces for the provision of authority to have one’s picture taken—like the Terms & Conditions we agree to but never read.
Touted as critical voices in the LGBTQIA+ community as well, the duo’s art breadth discusses social realities through digital spaces—from experiential art to panel discussions about being queer. Their most recent debut on SuperRare is their original marriage certificate titled ‘Let me check with the wife’. Should you choose to mint and collect the artwork, you will also be acquiring the ‘Marital Obligations’ NFT: where the collector will be directed to provide for the couple, or even give them gifts on their wedding anniversary, reversing the roles of the collector-artist relationship, and actively critiquing the objectified role of the “wife” in marital relationships.
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Dabbling in design that focuses on gender equality and fluidity is hardly new to Grey Leifer, the Chief Design Officer of genderless fashion label Play Out Apparel. In a NFT debut, ‘Dissolve’ is a collection of 12 abstract animations that reflects a visual representation of a one-of-a-kind digital soundscape. It is a modern day commentary on how the flow of everyday is different for everyone: probing the idea of how whilst we experience universal experiences, certain individuals—such as those of the LGBTQIA+ community—go through wholly different hours as marginalised individuals in a world that sees things through a narrowing, normative lens.
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Another one tasked with the curatorial role for SuperRare: Nicole Ruggiero is a 3D visual artist who worked on ‘ICONS’ for the Web3 community with Sam Clover. Part of their efforts were aimed at searching for queer crypto artists who are forthcoming about their queerness in order to inspire other LGBTQIA+ artists to be unafraid of speaking up about their identity in the NFT sphere. Ruggiero and Clover’s collaborative work includes a non-binary character named ‘Fish’ battling through a vibrant New York City—reminiscent of their video game days when they wished they could choose a more androgynous avatar that they resonated with.
Ruggiero herself is on a roll, with yet another collaborative piece titled ‘How the Internet Changed My Life’ debuting at the 11 Newel Gallery in Brooklyn, New York City. The interactive exhibition she’s a part of invites audiences to peek into the virtual lives of others via mixed reality portraits, VR-led worlds and Augmented Reality (AR) filters.