Historically speaking, the world of art has had a bit of an accessibility problem. Of course, there have always been starving artists, but for years in order to be an artist who could afford to feed oneself, you needed wealth, education, connections, and time. This means that for a long time, the world of art — especially media with high barriers to entry like film and fine art — was dominated by those with the social power to do so: wealthy, straight white men.
All art, regardless of medium, is an act of narrative building. For centuries, paintings, novels, songs, and films have informed the values and beliefs of the dominant culture. When straight white men dominated the art world, their ideas, thoughts, and feelings dominated as well. That’s because art is a reflection of the artist. Regardless of how you enact your creativity, art takes the abstract — pain, emotion, ideas, truth — and makes them physical. Art is about taking your inner world outside of you and showing it to the world.
Today, art is more accessible than ever before. With the advent of social media, more and more artists are able to make a living for themselves, even if they’re not the next Picasso. However, as social media algorithms and cryptocurrencies become more and more out of control (or rather, in control), the pursuit of art becomes more commercialized. Suddenly, art isn’t about self-expression. It’s about engagement and profit. Art created for these means is no longer a reflection of the artist; it’s a reflection of the audience, or at least what the artist thinks the audience wants.
This is something I fall victim to all the time. My chosen creative medium is writing (obviously). I often use writing to work through painful emotions and express complicated opinions. It’s the process of writing, less so the end product, that’s so sacred to me. Yet, every time I write something, I have this feeling that what I made isn’t valid unless other people look at and enjoy it.
When we engage in creativity for creativity’s sake and acknowledge the value of art outside of profit or praise, we engage in something life-affirming. In the face of systems that threaten our lives, we create our own communities that affirm our humanity and have our backs. The LGBTQ community has a long history of creation. Queer cultural traditions like tea dances, ballroom, and drag were all created out of this need to see ourselves as we are and to share these authentic selves with our own self-created world, a world that won’t attack, oppress, or suppress us.
In this way, we’re all artists, even if we don’t put pen to paper or paint to canvas. When you solve a problem, plan an event, or craft an argument, you’re being creative. You’re using your personal paradigm — the unique experiences, emotions, and opinions that make you you — to create something that once didn’t exist, something that can maybe help others see a world worth living in.
Throughout this issue, you will find a parade of queer art that will teach you more about yourself and others. But to truly explore your inner world, embrace the artist in you. Even if you don’t have the practical skills of a capital-A Artist, think, feel, and trust yourself to create. Even if you hate the end product, the process will be illuminating. We all have complex inner lives and the universal desire to be understood and seen, and creativity is a muscle we all possess that, when flexed, allows us to know ourselves and the world we live in more intimately.