If you’ve ever seen the “Our Love” mural on the Atlanta Beltline, then you know the work of Atlanta-based queer artist Maite Nazario.
The mural depicts two lovers in black and white with a yellow circle highlighting their faces at the center of the piece. The stunning artwork also includes a QR code, which viewers can scan to hear an interview with the lovers depicted in the mural.
“My first mural was about queer love and about a queer couple that was living in Atlanta at the time,” Nazario told Georgia Voice. “They really inspired me because they would host extremely queer parties in their home, and they had really open hearts. They’re both trans and I wanted to document [their story], so that’s how the mural ‘Our Love’ got made.”
As a proud nonbinary Latinx immigrant, Nazario’s art reflects their love of nature and desire to celebrate queer people of color.
“I really love putting nature and queer people together because I feel like queerness is so beautiful and natural,” Nazario said.
One of their more recent pieces that exemplifies the union of queerness and nature is the “Be Free” Mural done for Getaway, a cabin rental company about two hours outside of Atlanta. Complete with a rainbow, fairies, and woodland creatures, the mural beautifies the side of the camper in the middle of the spearmint green forest. Nazario was inspired by the natural site and said they aimed to “make the nature gay” with this piece.
Born in Guatemala and growing up both there and in Puerto Rico, Nazario moved to Atlanta as a teen and has been an artist since they were a child. Their first painting was of their mom sitting on a suitcase during that immigration process.
“I started making art because of the experiences I was going through,” Nazario said. “I felt very isolated in moving a lot as a kid — a lot of changing of scenery and feeling like I didn’t fit in anywhere, not only because I was moving a lot but also because of my very obvious queerness. I used art as a refuge.”
Another local piece Nazario is proud of is the “Start talking; stop HIV” mural, a colorful art piece based on community panel discussions on living with HIV. It was completed in 2019 in a collaboration among local artists.
“One of the other artists was my friend Ash Walsh and after we completed that mural, they, unfortunately, passed away during the pandemic,” Nazario said. “I feel like that mural is super beautiful and important because it’s a testament to their art and the mark they left on the world … I feel super lucky that I got to be their friend and collaborate with them. They were an incredibly talented artist, and the world deserved so many more of their murals.”
Now Nazario is living with their partner in the Dominican Republic, which is just one island over from their former home Puerto Rico, and thus sees a lot of solidarity and community migration among queer people from both islands.
Being back and forth between Atlanta and the DR has allowed Nazario to work in both places, and they recently finished the passion project of painting La Jaula, one of the few lesbian bars in the Caribbean. Adorning the inside with 17 murals meant a lot to the artist, who feels it is extremely special to see a lesbian space in the Caribbean and described the experience as “extremely healing.”
Another one of their projects is also about celebrating queer Latinx people, this time by telling the stories of queer people from all the places Nazario has lived outside the continental United States.
“I’m doing a series where I’m documenting Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Guatemalan queer people through paintings,” Nazario said. “I also have a podcast that’s in Spanish that goes with each painting, so as you’re looking at the painting you can listen to the stories of the people who are painted and try to feel more empathy and understand where they’re coming from.”
Nazario calls their work “artivism,” a combination of art and activism. Nazario said that celebrating and sharing the stories of queer people, people of color, Latinx people, and immigrants shouldn’t be political, but it inherently is because of political attacks on those groups.
Their own experiences have informed that message — be it the erosion of Indigenous culture by the U.S. occupation of Puerto Rico, the struggle to celebrate nonbinary people in deeply religious communities, navigating a racist U.S. immigration system, or the barrage of transphobic attacks from the Republican party.
Throughout the struggle, Nazario continues using their art to spread love and acceptance. Planning to get married and move back to Atlanta later this year, they aim to help create resources and art for queer immigrants forced to leave their communities and for those who don’t speak English.
“I love telling the stories of the people that I love,” Nazario said. “It makes me very excited because I know the people that I’m painting and my community deserve to be celebrated and deserve to be heard out. Ultimately my goal is to continue to amplify the voices of my community through my art.”