by Nicole Murray
Art in its truest form is a means of self-expression which is why those who identify as LGBTQIA+ often turn to the arts as a safe outlet for exploring and questioning self-identity, gender roles, and sexuality. (LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual/Agender, with the “+” used as a denotation of everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that words can’t yet describe.) Some of the resulting works are deeply personal and may never be seen by anyone other than the creator. Others are created with the express purpose of being seen to spark conversations, create community, or simply to entertain.
During this Pride Month, we are featuring several local artists from different disciplines whose public work is intertwined with their relationship to the LGBTQIA+ community. Their stories feature messages of identity, belonging, and self-empowerment in a beautiful exhibition of pride as we celebrate and support LGBTQIA+ artists this month and all throughout the year.
Just as a note – ASI has personally contacted all of these artists below and received their consent to be featured!
Buffalo history cites many instances of injustice towards the LGBTQIA+ community especially around the time of the Stonewall riots in the late 60’s and early 70’s. But slowly much of the area is evolving into a more receptive place, a fact that Cristiano Pereira, a visual artist who emigrated here from Brazil, has really enjoyed. An accepting community is very important for Pereira because his art is very personal; incorporating imagery and textures from his upbringing in Brazil with his identity as a queer artist. His latest gallery opening “Exquisite” took place on June 4 at Pine Apple Company on Allen Street and featured several acrylic and encaustic paintings on faux fur, meant to be reminiscent of costume shops during Carnaval do Brazil in Rio.
The paintings are largely risque in nature which provides a juxtaposition of Cristiano’s own views on sexuality with the largely religious affiliations of Carnaval. The effect of paint on fur is mesmerizing to look at but was at first a difficult medium for Cristiano to work with. Ultimately, the technique is achieved through layering glue and paint to train the fur to lay a certain way and stay in place after it has been painted. The resulting work is whimsical and full of movement while showcasing Cristiano’s finesse for portraiture.
Cristiano has enjoyed watching patron interactions with his work, especially listening to others in the community speak about what resonates with them. Since many of his paintings feature Brazilian and Latin iconography that might not be instantly recognizable to someone who is unfamiliar with those cultures, many who view the gallery have offered their own personal interpretations sparking thought-provoking conversations with the artist.
If you happen to be walking down Allen Street, pop in to Pine Apple Company to see if you can catch the exhibit when a cross breeze travels through the gallery and makes the fur on the paintings move, almost as if it were breathing life across the artworks. The show is on display for the remainder of the month.
Anthony Alterio is the Assistant Professor of Dance at SUNY Fredonia and uses his work as dancer and choreographer, as well as his background in Queer Theory psychology, to explore representations of the LGBTQIA+ community in pop culture. He began his professional dance training at the University of Colorado-Boulder and then went on to attain an MFA in Dance from the University of Michigan.
Prior to pursuing dance in college, Anthony danced competitively as a young child. But as he got older and began to explore different means of self-expression through piercings and dyeing his hair, he learned all too quickly that the competitive dance world was very narrow minded in its expectation of gender roles and appearance. He abandoned dance and began his college career in psychology.
After dipping a toe back in the water and taking a few dance classes in college, Anthony met some important mentors at the University of Colorado-Boulder and began presenting original choreography in school. His biggest benefactors were female-identifying professors who urged him to use his background in Queer Theory to inform his choreography and dance practice. However, he longed for a gay male-identifying role model, so it was much to his dismay that it was the gay male faculty who dismissed his work for being “too effeminate.”
Not one to be kept down or told who to be, it was this criticism that ultimately drove Anthony to pursue teaching after graduate school with the mission of making his studio a more inclusive environment. Now, as a teacher and mentor, Anthony urges his students to explore their identities through dance, however that may manifest itself. The welcoming space that he has created in his studio has attracted many and led him to co-create a summer program called “Excessive Realness,” a queer-normative dance intensive for LGBTQIA+ dancers. The 2021 intensive took place last week and featured movement classes such as “Holding Histories, Moving Bodies” and “Dancing Testimony.”
Anthony now tries his best to limit the amount of weight he assigns to a critical comment while respecting that person’s perspective and has found much more freedom in his work that way. A friendly and receptive person to speak with, Anthony encourages any person who is interested in exploring identity through dance to reach out to him at [email protected].
The popularity of drag is owed in part to the TV series, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but the history of drag dates all the way to the 16th century when Shakespearian actors would dress as women, as women were not allowed on stage. Since then, drag has evolved into a celebrated art form with its own customs and traditions, not to mention a dedicated fan base.
The freedom of self-expression is what makes all drag performances unique and it is the performer’s choice as to what form the art will manifest itself. The most mainstream aspects of drag are incredible feats of makeup artistry and costume design but the best drag artists are performers at heart and able to connect and interact with their audiences through singing, dancing, comedy, and other talents. Although the entertainment aspect of drag has always been at the forefront, many are attracted to the art because it is a safe haven to explore gender identity within a community and that is exactly why Chaser Round (left) and Myster E (right) formed Queen City Kings Drag.
Don’t be fooled by the name because Queen City Kings Drag welcomes not only Drag Kings (male-impersonation) but all art pieces including Queens, bio-drag, Burlesque, and more, to be a part of their shows. Chaser Round and Myster E elaborate, “We work closely with each performer to give them the tools they need no matter what discipline they may want to explore. We use our communal skill pool to help and lift each other up.”
When they’re not on stage, Chaser Round and MysterE along with other members of QCKD can often be seen helping out around the Buffalo area including outreach at Friends of the Night People and during 716 Day, a day of random acts of kindness in Buffalo. Most recently they were part of Dover Days, a community yard sale and charity event in Lake View, NY. They also raised funds through a garage sale for #BeautifyBuffalo, a grassroots organization dedicated to cleaning streets and parks in Buffalo and the surrounding areas. “Our group is about bringing people together to (hopefully) form friendships. Those friendships often create family and as family we reach out and help the greater community as we can by donating our time and dollars,” says Myster E.
While Pride Month activities are still limited due to the pandemic, Queen City Kings Drag has taken their show online and recently premiered their show “Flame” digitally on Twitch at the beginning of the month. This show is part of a series called “Cyber Celebrations” which features monthly streamed shows and artists from around the world. The next show, “Stay-Cation,” premieres on July 18th at 9PM.
For those who may be interested in breaking into the drag scene or exploring other performing options, Queen City Kings Drag offers New Member Meetings where you can decide if the community is a right fit for you. QCKD stresses acceptance and tolerance amongst its members and feeling safe within the group is paramount.
And finally, if you’re on the fence about joining QCKD, Myster E offers this beautiful advice: “To my younger self I would have told them to first, start Drag sooner. It is so much fun that I wish I had started sooner. Secondly, I would tell them to not be afraid to fail. Not everyone is going to like what you do and that is ok. And finally, I’d say take more pictures. These are the moments and people in your life you will want to remember forever.”