25 LGBTQ+ San Antonio Creatives on Celebrating Pride and Boosting Black Voices During a Tumultuous Time

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Clockwise from top left: LGBTQ+ San Antonio creatives Polly Anna Rocha, Darian Donovan Thomas, Jose Villalobos, Daiquonne Lanier, Aamori Olujimi, Golden Skyy, Ana Fernandez and Anel I. Flores
  • Clockwise from top left: LGBTQ+ San Antonio creatives Polly Anna Rocha, Darian Donovan Thomas, Jose Villalobos, Daiquonne Lanier, Aamori Olujimi, Golden Skyy, Ana Fernandez and Anel I. Flores

This year marks half a century since the Christopher Street Liberation Day March commemorated the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — the New York uprising that birthed the gay rights movement and LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations around the world.

Sadly, Pride in the modern era frequently focuses on hedonism and rainbows while neglecting to recognize Stonewall’s history as a violent protest over police routinely raiding gay bars and harassing the community. With the world entangled in both a global pandemic and protests over racial injustice and police brutality, we reached out to 40-plus LGBTQ+ San Antonio creatives to ask them how Pride should be observed this year, how identity shapes their work and what role they see artists playing within the realm of politics.


Twenty-five people responded to our questionnaire, which asked participants to answer at least three questions from a series of six.
COURTESY OF AAMORI OLUJIMI
  • Courtesy of Aamori Olujimi
Aamori Olujimi is a trans activist and skincare enthusiast who loves Thai food and ’80s music.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I think events and organizations should face the issue of needing to be more mindful of exclusion of trans and Black people from their events, organization cabinets and social clubs. Treat us as people and not charity cases. Be kind and want friendship from us, not want us around for entertainment value. Hopefully other LBGTQQIA+ people know how it feels to be treated as an accessory instead of a human by some non-LBGTQQIA+ acquaintances and friends. … Avoid treating a Black trans woman such as me similarly, as some of you all may have experienced. Don’t treat us as less-than, because we know some of you also know how that can feel. If some of us need help, and you wish to help, do so, but do it because you want to help someone, not to look good for the media.



What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Remembering that people debated, fought, talked and suffered, while finding the joy within that struggle, so we can openly celebrate pride and wear rainbow capes and, in many areas, publicly hold hands with our partners. Many who paved the way were trans women, other trans people, and gays, lesbians, bisexuals [or] queer … many of those people were Black and other people of color.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
I have worked from home before, and the company I currently work for has all workers in my campaign working from home. It’s been pretty fabulous to save money on gas, eat lunch at home and not have to have some challenges of being a trans woman, or Black in the workplace! Also, my savings account is growing again! Thank goodness for work from home due to COVID-19. I also have a drawing pad which my partner and I are using. It was her treat, and I’m slowly going through drawings I’ve made on paper to digitally paint.
COURTESY OF AAMORI OLUJIMI
  • Courtesy of Aamori Olujimi
COURTESY OF AGOSTO CUELLAR
  • Courtesy of Agosto Cuellar
Agosto Cuellar is a San Antonio-based sustainable fashion designer who creates avant-garde “rasquachic” garments and accessories for the modern world and showed his Spring/Summer 2020 collection “Barrio Folk Baroque” at both New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
Lady Gaga, Madonna, Boy George.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride is a defiance — a constructive anger, a visibility. Pride is the opposite of shame.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine has sparked an uprising in my work in completing work that has been awaiting my attention and is now being revisited with this time to address it from a new perspective — a revolution of new and past subjects, a passion in my creative spirit.
DARRELL ROBERTS
  • Darrell Roberts
Ana Fernandez is a San Antonio-based painter who creates enigmatic street scenes exploring the diverse landscapes of Latino communities of South Texas.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
Pride originally started as a protest march, and so joining the current nationwide protests over racial injustice is a great thing. I support people celebrating pride in any way they wish, but I’ll be thinking of the BLM movement and supporting in any way I can.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
LGBTQ [Pride] definitely sparks memories of the ’90s for me. I attended the 1993 March on Washington for LGBTQ rights during the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” era. We demanded AIDS funding, [an] end to government-sanctioned discrimination, legalization of gay marriage and more. We have come a long way since then, but not fast enough considering that gay marriage only recently became legalized in 2015 in Texas. Pride for me is less about celebrating LGBTQ per se, but more about exercising our First Amendment rights.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
The most noble thing an artist can do is to tell the truth. Some of my favorite works of art have been made by artists who were speaking out against the injustices and social issues of their day. Artists from Diego Rivera, Picasso, Guerilla Girls, Banksy, Henry Taylor — there are so many who do it well. The art is political without being didactic, which makes it great.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
I’ve been learning more about fresco painting, which I learned how to do a few summers ago. I’ve been reading more. I think my paintings are ultimately about me, and in spending long interrupted hours with myself, no doubt some of what I’ve learned will find itself into my work.
Ana Fernandez, La Gardenia - COURTESY OF ANA FERNANDEZ
  • Courtesy of Ana Fernandez
  • Ana Fernandez, La Gardenia
COURTESY OF ANEL I. FLORES
  • Courtesy of Anel I. Flores
Anel I. Flores is a lesbiana, queer author and artivist, creating work as a continuation and evolution of the conversations started by the Xicana/x movement in art and literature, now infused by Latinx, transfeminism, intersectionality, queer politics and resistance.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
Even if it’s in your yard, in the street or in your kitchen, dress up in the most colorful, exciting, glittery get-up you can find! There are no limits to how little or how much clothing or body paint you need, but I urge you to break as many limits as possible in your fashion aesthetic, honey, because one of the million wonderful things about being in the LGBTQIA+ community is that we can break rules, ya’ll — all of them, because rules are mostly racist, heteronormative, sexist ideals that we obviously do not have to follow, and we have to feel good while we are doing this hard, real and serious work of defunding the police and ICE. Second, and most important, read! Read of worlds and people we have forgotten or who have been left out so that we can make space for our stories to shake up sleeping hearts and awaken the rage we need to fight the system. Here are a few on my bookshelf, Brother to Brother edited by Essex Hemphill and Joseph Beam, Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria E. Anzaldua,  The American middle class . . . by Dawn Lundy Martin, Zami by Audre Lorde, Homegrown by Bell Hooks and Amalia Mesa-Bains, Post-Borderlandia by Jackie Cuevas, Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two-Spirit Memory by Qwo-Li Driskill, Homie by Danez Smith, Working by Juliana Huxtable, and all the works by Sharon Bridgeforth, D’Lo, Adelina Anthony, Maya Chapina, Carla Trujillo, Claudia Rodriguez, Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Norma Cantu, Kay Barret, Joe Jimenez, Rita Urquijo-Ruiz, Dino Foxx, Erasmo Guerra or me — Anel I. Flores!

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
As a kid, when a girl “who is a friend” stood close to me, talked intimately with me or wanted to be near me, I recognized a whirlwind of fluttery feelings erupt in my panza. This magical feeling did not come up when I was with my boyfriend. In fact, quite the opposite; when I was with a “boyfriend,” I tended to look at my watch, escape out the window with a daydream, or I’d avoid him altogether and hang out with my girlfriends instead. Besides the romantic flutters, there was a magnetism my spirit had with the spirit of the feminine in all things, like the ocean, the moon, the flower, la madre tierra. By the time I was 14 years old, I was drawing small doodles of bodies interwoven in an embrace, faces curled in creases of another person’s arm, silhouettes of people shaped in a way that for me remained gender non-binary or gender queer. Of course, I did not have this language in 1992. I was keeping everything gender queer at the time so no one would find out I was writing and drawing about lesbian, gay and queer love. When I began to doodle, and soon after, draw, paint and write more seriously, [I did so] with the same aesthetic and driven by the same style — a queer style, a style shaped by my personal observation of walking in a queer body, and by the small glimpses of queerness in writers and artists like Frida Kahlo, Anaïs Nin, Nikki Giovanni, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Ana Castillo, Adrienne Rich, and maybe two or three others that were
THE COVER OF FLORES’ BOOK EMPANADA
  • The cover of Flores’ book Empanada
accessible in bookstores [and] libraries. Although there were resources, they were few, and the opportunity and space to find these voices was not available. Doubly, I was running afraid all the time. I didn’t have the courage most days to walk up to a librarian and ask for books by lesbians, or by gay authors. In fact, when I did find a book in the library I remember even stealing from a library because there was no way I would be able to check it out, or take it home, in fear I’d be found out and harassed or outed. Relying on the absence of lesbiana, queer erotics, love and living in art, books, theater, television, film and media, I began to fill every ounce of my work moving forward with queer imagery, stories, lived and observed experiences, desire and secrets left buried, in an attempt to fill the space which was erased by colonized, heteronormative, white thought. My play Empanada, which debuted in 2002 at the Esperanza, [was] the first production on their stage to showcase a live girl-on-girl kiss and [was] all produced, performed, directed and written by queer people in an attempt to not only fill in the missing stories so many queer folks are looking to find themselves in but also in an effort to fill production and directorial spaces with queer bodies. Empanada toured around the U.S. for 10 years and soon after was published as a full collection being studied today in a range of places like graduate programs, middle schools, books clubs and beaches. Almost weekly, I am invited into classrooms, groups, auditoriums and galleries to share my work. Inevitably, people share with me [that] they had been waiting for this book their whole lives — this book gave them the courage to leave their husband, they gifted Empanada to their sister and now they are so much closer, or it has given them the courage to write their own story. As long as I am still hearing this feedback, I know the work of writing from my lesbiana, butch, Xicana, queer identity is still hungered and sought out. And, truth be told, the creating is also needed for me, as the process of excavating traumas, celebrations, realizations in storytelling, is a way of healing, releasing and becoming a better person for others.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
Sharon Bridgforth, my first queer writing maestra, held space specifically for queer people of color in her writing workshop at the Esperanza. The action of her designing a space was political! The work we were able to dig into was political. The stage she told us to present it on, to over 200 audience members was political. The zine she made us create and sell at the performance was political. The publishing she encouraged us to do in independent zines, anthologies and journals was political. Filling space as queer artists, out in the straight world was political. The facts that this space existed to create art, and share art, art and writings that still exist, are studied, performed and still circulated in the world as queer Black, Brown and Asian voices is a political act for change!
COURTESY OF ANTHONY DEAN-HARRIS
  • Courtesy of Anthony Dean-Harris
Anthony Dean-Harris is a writer, artist and radio personality whose work is recently involving more text-based visual art and, much like Tai’s description of Cher from Clueless, is a virgin who can’t drive.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way?
I only came out to a slight degree about a year and a half ago (and we all know it’s a process), so my previous work never broached sexuality (you write about what you know … so I didn’t write about it).

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
I see everything involving humanity as political since the root of the word means literally “having to do with people.” Therefore, art is inherently political since it acts as a commentary on people, no matter the condition or direct subject.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
This quarantine hit me in an odd time in my career as I have been moving away from mostly writing about jazz music to focusing my writing on more broad literary nonfiction and moving into more text-based visual art. It’s slow going, but I have been making a point of discovering who I want to be — as an artist, as a writer, as a queer person, as a Black man — when we all fully emerge into a new world.
Text-based artwork by Anthony Dean-Harris - COURTESY OF ANTHONY DEAN-HARRIS
  • Courtesy of Anthony Dean-Harris
  • Text-based artwork by Anthony Dean-Harris
COURTESY OF ANTONIA PADILLA
  • Courtesy of Antonia Padilla
Antonia Padilla is a trans journalist, photographer and Air Force veteran who has worked for newspapers and magazines across the country and exhibits her fine art photography at Studio Light SA in the Lone Star Art Space.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
Being trans has allowed me to see who people really are. This impacts my fine art photography through loss of sales when a buyer sees my work before they see me. During our monthly studio open house, people will see my work and ask to speak to the artist. I’ll walk up and introduce myself only to have them back away when they realize, “You’re a man.”

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Unity, strength, political clout.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
We are the fire that lights up people’s minds.
BRYAN RINDFUSS
  • Bryan Rindfuss
Chris Sauter is an internationally exhibiting artist and Southwest School of Art professor who creates cross-disciplinary work to explore the links between biology and culture, the present and the past, the personal and the universal ... and sometimes decorates cakes and designs for Cornyation in his spare time.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
We should observe pride by joining with our brothers and sisters of color who are still fighting the same issues that were rioted over at Stonewall. Injustice for some is injustice for all.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way?
My earliest work was concerned with how identity is formed and later matured into collapsing perceived dichotomies. I believe the root of that stems from my grappling with what it means to be gay both physiologically and culturally. Also, I probably would never have been involved with Cornyation if I wasn’t gay — not that you have to be gay to participate. My troupe is half gay, half straight.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
The first real influence on how I saw myself as an artist was Andy Warhol, not because of the look or the meaning of his work but how he used multiple ways of working to do whatever he wanted. That notion of freedom really impacted me at a young age. Robert Gober remains the epitome of what a good artist looks like.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
My role as an artist is to delve deeply and critically into the world around me to make some sense of it. I find that my interests have floated around so-called political issues like identity, agriculture and petroleum extraction without being too overt or didactic. More recently, with the election of Donald Trump, I have felt an obligation to understand how people could believe and be manipulated by obvious falsehoods and hold such cognitive dissonance. That’s where my pieces Echo and Narcissus, shown at Blue Star Contemporary, and Pleasure Principle, shown at the McNay Art Museum, came from. They touch on notions of the echo chamber, confirmation bias and the physiology of belief. The internet has made it possible for the most asinine ideas to spread to a larger group of people more quickly than ever before. More people now think the Earth is flat than in the entire history of the world — against mass amounts of irrefutable evidence! Obviously, something is very wrong.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine, although a shock to the system, has been pretty good for me. It has gotten me back into the studio more regularly, which has been a blessing. And we are attending to neglected house projects. Of course, I am trying not to think too much about how this is affecting my and my husband’s employment. We are both in the arts and both work directly with groups of people, so our usual ways of working have either changed or been taken away. We are OK for now, but the future is a little less clear.
Chris Sauter, Echo and Narcissus - COURTESY OF CHRIS SAUTER
  • Courtesy of Chris Sauter
  • Chris Sauter, Echo and Narcissus
Daiquonne Lanier, “Boy in A Dress” - DAPHNE VILLANUEVA
  • Daphne Villanueva
  • Daiquonne Lanier, “Boy in A Dress”
Daiquonne Lanier is a San Antonio-based visual artist and designer who presented his debut fashion collection in 2014 and has recently focused his musings on personal projects, spiritual growth and work that highlights Black queer stories.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
Gay pride has almost always centered around and championed the narratives of cisgender white gay men. As a gender-nonconforming Black queer individual, I’ve always found myself underrepresented, even in what should be the most inclusive of celebrations surrounding queerness. To celebrate Pride, we need to acknowledge that there is no gay culture without the monumental contributions of Black people and most importantly Black trans women. In the thick of riots and protests fueled by the longtime suffering and inequality of Black people, it is necessary for people with privilege to do their part in dismantling white supremacy. The LGBTQI+ community is not exempt from this call to action. With a global pandemic altering the way we celebrate pride this year, I believe it’s a great time to turn the conversation away from White gays in underwear at bars and focus on providing aid for our trans sisters who are so valuable but also constantly in danger of losing their lives.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
Monumentally. I think my work before I fully began owning my identity was very filtered and naive. I really enjoyed telling stories but often the stories weren’t ones I was included in. I made beautiful dresses inspired by media and stories that I wasn’t a part of. In my most recent project titled “Boy in A Dress,” shot by Daphne Villanueva (@divusdar), I captured the beauty of breaking down the constructs of masculinity that are so present even in the Black queer community. From that work, I was able to really embrace the beauty and complexity in the duality of being Black and femme. I really believe it will shape the way I create forever.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
Ledef (@ledef_) of House of Kenzo (HOK) is one of the most inspiring artists I know. They are constantly pushing the envelope on fashion, creativity, sexuality and performance. It’s very difficult to be a Black creative and assert yourself as a force in a white and Latinx-dominated community, and for HOK to be doing what they’re doing is always so inspiring to me. They get my 10s.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
I think this time away from everything has ultimately allowed me to take a step back and reassess who I am as a creative and what that means going forward. I think, like the world, creatives are always pressured to go fast, to keep up and produce as much work as possible to keep your audience engaged. Quarantine has given me the opportunity to explore other avenues of creativity and lean into work that feels more personal and necessary.
Daiquonne Lanier, “Boy in A Dress” - DAPHNE VILLANUEVA
  • Daphne Villanueva
  • Daiquonne Lanier, “Boy in A Dress”
Darian Donovan Thomas, Xochipilli - DARIAN DONOVAN THOMAS
  • Darian Donovan Thomas
  • Darian Donovan Thomas, Xochipilli
Darian Donovan Thomas is a San Antonio-born, Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist who uses violin, electronics, and extra-musical materials in his works to discuss matters of racism in the U.S., uphold ancient indigenous stories and create abstract naturescapes.


With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
If we could make strong headway on undoing the whitewashing pride has undergone, I would be happily surprised. But if ever there were a time to remember to center BIPOC voices and to really reckon with the damage whitewashing has done, it would be amid the global protests occurring right now.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
I wonder if any queer artist gets a choice in whether or not their identity effects their work. I know for me, when I wanted to write love songs in middle school, I used the second tense. Lots of singing to “you,” because I didn’t feel safe using the gendered third person and having people find out that I was singing to a “him.” But this always made my songs feel insincere. It’s impossible to be authentic when you’re shoving sections of yourself in the closet. So, I wrestled with it, and grew out of it. A lot of my work in [San Antonio music duo] Saturn Skies was LGBTQIA+ focused — especially exploring interactions with “straight” men. When curated into a gallery to represent the mixed Afrofuture and Azteca futura, I used Aafrofuturist aesthetics and research to become the flower prince Xochipilli: an Aztec deity and patron of homosexual men. I wanted to show that queer culture has been accepted and revered, and I want us to continue to emerge from the backwards thinking that has plagued our new societies for so long. I’d say when I was younger, I think my work pointed at being gay and zooming in on that aspect of myself, whereas now it’s more a lens I use to help people see the world through. When it’s in my work it isn’t the focus, but part of the world I create.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
Artists should be involved in politics. Artists already have a platform and audience, so they are in an ideal position to spread relevant, critical conversations into communities. To avoid political topics is to avoid the reality of the world we’re in — which is to create inauthentically. Even if one’s work isn’t centered on political topics, acknowledge the escapism inherent to what you make. I tend to decide early in my process: am I writing something for discussion, or for escape? Pieces for discussion tend to be political and have text (such as [my songs] “Stephon Clark” or “Kid Gunner Brother”), whereas pieces for escape tend to be instrumental (such as “Marble” or “In Times of Panic I Like to Stay Still”). On a personal level, I only feel comfortable making escapist works because I’ve made pieces that confront our system head-on (such as with “Hang” from my installation “Move On/Get Over It”).

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine forced me to reassess who my audience is and wrestle with the true nature of my intent with creation. I quickly realized that I had been creating from the perspective of needing approval, and therefore my audience was a more academia-based “in the know” kind of crowd. Now that those institutions have crumbled: who am I creating for, and why? I’ve realized I’m creating spaces where people can process things. My music is spatial — I want you to go inside of it and let whatever happens happen. Some of my pieces are more political, and therefore feel more like classrooms. But my recent works have been more medicine-based — sonic spaces where people can retreat to rest, emote and refresh themselves. I’m creating for those who are weary — because my craft is medicine.
COURTESY OF DARIAN DONOVAN THOMAS
  • Courtesy of Darian Donovan Thomas
ERIK GUSTAFSON
  • Erik Gustafson
David Zamora Casas, aka Nuclear Meltdown, is a San Antonio native who employs multimedia art (painting, installation, soundscapes, collage, printmaking and performance) to explore a wide range of themes including sexuality, politics and the environment.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
My first experiences with gay pride day was a picnic at San Pedro Springs Park with ice chests filled with beer and friends taking mushrooms or whatever fashionable recreational drug of the late 1970s. We were together in queer solidarity, simple, quaint and charming, centered on living to be the ultimate best self in safety and unapologetically in our disco shoes. I have cultural currency when I say these two pandemics (AIDS and coronavirus) in addition to the global awareness of anti-racism and police brutality are helping me reflect on surviving as well as continuing to make a life through art. Hate and uncertainty are strengthening my love and emotional bonds with family, lovers and friends. More than ever, with gay pride I question what is truly important and how others live their daily reality. … For me the Pride never stops!

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
From past to present, my joto identity is part of my DNA, mi conciencia, mi vida. Currently, I have reached new levels of awareness through reflection. There is wisdom in age. My intent has always been for the audience to understand my perspective, and maybe say, “I respect you because of the manner in which you are presenting yourself.” By contextualizing the content and putting all the cards on the table and saying, “Please accept and understand me! Do not just tolerate me.” In 2010, Bihl Haus Arts hosted my exhibition “Ancient Guardians of the Sky,” which included a new painting series plus several site-specific installations. “The Chapel Of Love” was an installation within the exhibit focused on marriage, commitment and inherited gender roles. The main component was a vintage lace wedding dress suspended in a small alcove. On the floor below, a pair of men’s wingtip shoes was flanked by a pair of white leather baby shoes. This tender montage was juxtaposed with black-and-white vintage photographs of sexually aroused nude men and religious statuary embellished with phallic accoutrements. The installation made the point that a spiritual union is more than a piece of paper and valid regardless of gender or religious beliefs. As Rita Urquijo-Ruiz points out in the exhibition catalogue, this “highlights the duplicity of homophobes who are closeted gay men only discovered when caught illicitly soliciting sex in public restrooms.” Because of the risk Bihl Haus took by presenting queer culture, the reward came later when “Ancient Guardians of the Skies” was selected as one of the best exhibitions of 2010 by the San Antonio Express-News.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
Playwrights Virginia Grise and Oscar Wilde, painter Frida Kahlo, slam poet Joyous Windrider Jiménez and painter Caravaggio are some of my inspirations.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride is everyday self-love. Pride is a couple who has been together for over 50 years. Pride is young non-binary relationships giddy with novelty. Pride is the memory of friends’ lives lost to AIDS. Pride is a big, juicy, intact cock. Pride is profound lesbian love. Pride is a sincere feeling of self, true humility and satisfaction of being you.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
In my opinion, the role of the artist within the realm of politics is as varied as the medium one chooses to use. When I speak of art and politics, I think of my connection to community and wish for an economically satisfying, safe, living human condition. Therefore, I personally cannot/will not separate my politics from my life’s work. To be honest is to be political. Telling our stories, nuestros cuentos, is an important conscious fundamental act. To coin an old phrase and appropriate a new version, I repeat what I have heard, “Silence = Death” — “Trump = Death.”

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
These pandemics and global protests are helping me reflect on making a life through art. It is strengthening my emotional bonds with family, lovers and friends more than ever. I create installations from floor to ceiling and I sometimes don’t have time to detail the paintings that are within that installation. The queerantine has given me time to embellish three recent paintings that were exhibited but not totally completed. I’m currently (re)working the two paintings that were on exhibit in the McNay “TransAmerica/n: Gender Identity and Appearance Today” installation “El Arcoiris” and another painting for the installation “Make Water Pure Again/Bring My Baby Back to Life Again” at the Mexican Cultural Institute  I have come to the understanding that, similarly to the portrait of Dorian Grey, my paintings have a life of their own. All of my work is fueled by love, memory and emotion which grow, change and blossom with joy.
David Zamora Casas, Madre Inmigrante - COURTESY OF DAVID ZAMORA CASAS
  • Courtesy of David Zamora Casas
  • David Zamora Casas, Madre Inmigrante
COURTESY OF DIANA KERSEY
  • Courtesy of Diana Kersey
Diana Kersey is a visual artist and Northwest Vista College instructor who works exclusively in clay to create small studio pieces and large architectural installations — including public art commissions for the City of San Antonio, Via Metropolitan Transit and the San Antonio River Authority — and lives in Olmos Park Terrace with her spouse Christina Palafox, their two spoiled dogs and a ridiculous cat.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I think it is a moral obligation for us queers to observe Pride this year by showing up and fully supporting the protests, and then to commit ourselves to help do the hard work of dismantling the systemic racism that these protests have brought to the forefront in our country. LGBTQ folks are also Black and Brown. How can members of our family enjoy the freedom to marry if they simultaneously do not have the freedom to travel through Olmos Park on McCullough without being pulled over because of the color of their skin? I plan to spend the month by showing up, listening to BIPOC, reading more about systemic racism and learning/thinking about how I can best use my talents and unearned white privilege to help instigate long-term change.

COURTESY OF DIANA KERSEY
  • Courtesy of Diana Kersey
Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My creative work tends to center itself on the cycles of nature and how a healthy system thrives when biodiverse. Monocultures are not healthy, are unsustainable and lead to dead ends. I make the same connections when thinking about human society. My natural dyke traits have made me fearless to take on projects of any scale and complexity. I think coming out as a lesbian in my 20s, at the same time I finished up my MFA in ceramics, resulted in both identities feeding off each other. For me, being an artist and being a lesbian is a natural symbiosis that has grown, matured and integrated together inside my own mind to form my identity.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Christina and I met (and quickly moved in together, of course) in 1998. We just saw each other at a Women’s march and pretty much immediately fell in love! We did not ever discuss having a ceremony because we felt “married.” In some ways, it was just too painful to fully think about being denied that right enjoyed by heterosexual couples. On June 26, 2015, when marriage was declared legal in all the states by the Supreme Court, we went to the Bexar County courthouse and exercised that right along with an amazing cross-section of San Antonio. Old, young, Black, White, Hispanic, people surrounded with their kids, all got married that day. It was the best day in June I think I will ever experience for the rest of my life. Love won!
Diana Kersey with her large-scale installation The Riparian Edge North - ALICIA WIESSE
  • Alicia Wiesse
  • Diana Kersey with her large-scale installation The Riparian Edge North
COURTESY OF ERNESTO OLIVO
  • Courtesy of Ernesto Olivo
Ernesto Olivo is a Mexican immigrant, visual artist, educator, community organizer, toy collector and sci-fi nerd who believes in working toward social change and enjoys biking and spending time outside with his dog Chongos.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I feel Pride should always be observed through a social justice lens. There is so much history that gets overlooked in the movement. We need to find a connection within the work and all the sacrifice, from the past to the present and into the future. James Baldwin is one of my favorite writers and a true inspiration who spoke clearly about his experiences within the discriminatory, racist, homophobic system. Then there is Nina Simone, who through music found a way to express and liberate herself from oppression. Music and art have always helped me understand the world around me and the human experience. Local organizations like the Pride Center and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center have been at the forefront in educating our communities through practice and action and need our support more than ever.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
LGBTQ identity has definitely played a role in my creativity. I think our movement has been at the forefront of music, art and creativity for a long time. There is the art of drag, the transformation to create something that can make you feel whole and complete. But really, the idea of being able to love who you want to love and being able to exist and live a fulfilling life, that is my true influence. Most of my work is about telling a story or a narrative about popular culture and the social impact it has on us.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
Artists like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol inspired me to create art that was a reflection of my self identity and how popular culture was shaping me. From such a young age, there was Frida Kahlo. Beauford Delaney and Nancy Cárdenas are also inspirations.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson immediately come to mind when it comes to Pride. I celebrate and honor them for not only for the Stonewall Riots, but for their work in finding shelter and support for queer homeless youth and fighting for transgender rights as well as the rights of gender non-conforming people.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
Nina Simone once asked, “How can you be an artist and not reflect the times?” I’ve created work to reflect on immigration issues, LGBTQ awareness, Black Lives Matter and youth empowerment. I still struggle to express myself, especially during this Coronavirus experience and all this social unrest. Just getting to the point of creating work to talk about social justice is a journey in itself. We live in this day and age where people will tell you what they believe in, but in reality, they should be showing you what they believe in.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine has stunned my creativity a bit. I’ve had to step up at work, be there for my parents. I just realized how much it has really affected me emotionally and psychologically. I am currently trying to reground myself and trying to be the best version of myself so I can continue to find ways to make and create narratives through art.
An artistically repurposed road sign by Ernesto Olivo - COURTESY OF ERNESTO OLIVO
  • Courtesy of Ernesto Olivo
  • An artistically repurposed road sign by Ernesto Olivo
COURTESY OF GOLDEN SKYY
  • Courtesy of Golden Skyy
Golden Skyy is a San Antonio-based Native American fashion designer and educator specializing in traditional tailoring, futuristic couture and digital textile design.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
The LGBTQ community has fought for its civil rights and is still battling
ELLY L
  • Elly L
discrimination and racism, [as has] the African American community … the Hispanic and Latino community … [and] the Native American community. The Native Americans have been fighting since day one when our land was taken from us. So, the real conundrum is not a matter of “what” Pride should do or observe, but [that] the world’s minorities [are in] synchronicity. Why are we not helping each other? Why do we continue to repeat negative energy? How about a dynamic permanent change to finally use our pedestal for greatness? Trust me when I say the LGBTQ community has the charisma … and all of the power of love to walk alongside our brothers and sisters! This year our collective LGTBQ community should take a stance with our brothers and sisters and combine all our strength into one powerful entity! We have five fingers and the palm of our hand that is not going to have any physical significance. However, when you put all five fingers together and make a fist, we create a solid blow!

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Girl, you know I will have glitter from head to toe so that I can sparkle all day! Let us all as the LGBTQ Pride community stand together for the final showdown of true equality for all humanity, put on our heels [and] grab a cocktail. We don’t dance, we werk. We don’t play, we slay. We don’t walk, we strut. And then sashay. We don’t work for free, that’s not the “T” hunty.
Golden Skyy's runway presentation “Love Wins” - JERRY LUM
  • Jerry Lum
  • Golden Skyy's runway presentation “Love Wins”
MAX HELFMAN
  • Max Helfman
Heyd Fontenot is a multimedia artist and filmmaker who fell in love with San Antonio as an Artpace resident in 2017, returned last fall as a curator/artist-in-residence at the Sala Diaz offshoot Casa Chuck and has since claimed the Alamo City as his home.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I have been invited by Ruby City to make a series of videos highlighting LGBTQ artworks in their collection (they’ll be posted on glasstire.com starting June 12). These videos will hopefully serve as a proxy art-outing experience. I feel like it’s a very, very recent practice among art institutions to acknowledge an artist’s sexuality — even when their knowledge of their sexuality would have been essential to accessing the artwork. Linda Pace (founder of Artpace and Ruby City) was exemplary in her support of artists from diverse backgrounds. So, if I can simply talk about her life’s work in this video series, we’ll literally be celebrating people of color, queerness, creative and feminine power, just as she did.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
In absolutely every way. I think I was born queer and also born a creative. They are so intertwined I can’t imagine existing in another way. It’s my expression: it’s personal and intimate and honest; it’s my story and my sentiment, so it’s going to be very queer.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
I can list queer artists like John Waters and Derek Jarman and Kenneth Anger (all filmmakers) who have inspired and fascinated me with their work. Even before I had access to a gay community or a queer circle, their work resonated with me. I can’t say that there is a singular gay aesthetic or sensibility, but there is something beyond my understanding about the gravitational pull of humor and the importance of disruption for so many of us.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
I often wished that I were more politically astute and could be helpful to the legislative process. I am not studious and that is not where my natural talents lay. I am a firm believer in finding the realms where you excel and where you are most effective and applying yourself there. I feel that my artwork has generally been very political, because I have a sometimes-overwhelming desire for progress and fairness and unburdening the downtrodden, and that is certainly expressed in my studio practice and artistic output.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
I thought I’d have been more productive in this period. It’s been my lifelong dream to be left alone to just do my work. But I am distracted, depressed, frightened and preoccupied with the pandemic and political unrest. So, there have been these additional hurdles to push past to finding the muse. But honestly, shouldn’t this extraordinary time be having a huge effect on our artistic lives, good and bad? It’s a different world right now. I find that I’m rolling around these phrases in my mind, wanting to put some feelings into words and then putting those words onto plaques. Maybe it’s like a “message in a bottle” — something for posterity, final words, a warning, a prayer: “There were once people here…”

Heyd Fontenot, Bring Back the Guillotine - COURTESY OF HEYD FONTENOT
  • Courtesy of Heyd Fontenot
  • Heyd Fontenot, Bring Back the Guillotine
JOSH HUSKIN
  • Josh Huskin
Jesse Mata is a known homosexual, longtime Cornyation agitator, King Anchovy LV, avid supporter of local arts and community nonprofits, and caretaker for an elderly Great Dane, a middle-aged pug and a productive backyard farm in Tobin Hill.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
This Pride I’m listening and learning. I want to be the best ally I can be for the BIPOC community. For me that means conscientious study of the Black Lives Matter movement and its goals, boosting Black voices and putting my money where my mouth is through support of Black-owned businesses and community organizations, especially those whose focus is protecting trans lives.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
Every sentence I write, costume I design, or stage prop I conjure of hot glue and glitter is suffused with LGBTQ identity. Authors like Gore Vidal and Armistead Maupin set fire to my adolescent brain with the power of weaponized queer wit. Later I was blessed to witness and even get to know drag artists like Donna Day, Tommie Ross and Whitney Paige, who taught me the power of presence, visual punch and a perfect side eye.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
I mentioned a few above (Vidal, et. al.), Leigh Bowery, Chris Sauter, James Baldwin, Divine, John McBurney, k. d. lang, Barbara Jordan — not a comprehensive list but certainly some of the people who have inspired and challenged me

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride for me means being your full authentic self and helping others to do the same in their own lives, free of judgment or oppression. I flash back to moments marching in front of the White House and down the Strip with my friends, family and coworkers, being present and visible, happy and angry and queer. It means continuously learning how to be a better advocate for all members of the queer family.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
I’m a small “a” artist at best, but political commentary/observation seems essential now. I have a skewed perspective since satire is my home base, but 18 of the 18 skits I’ve worked on for Cornyation were political, along with the past decade of scripts. In a skit where Jesus Christ’s second coming is cop-blocked by ICE, the political message is clear.
Jesse Mata getting into character for Cornyation - COURTESY OF JESSE MATA
  • Courtesy of Jesse Mata
  • Jesse Mata getting into character for Cornyation
ANDREW WERNER
  • Andrew Werner
Jimmy James is a Laredo-born, San Antonio-raised singer-songwriter and voice impressionist who rose to fame with his hauntingly accurate Marilyn Monroe impersonation, has performed for numerous celebrities (Whoopi Goldberg and Elton John among them) and landed on the Billboard dance chart with this global club hit “Fashionista.”

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
Let’s have solidarity with Black Lives Matter. … If some of us are not free, then none of us are free. This is a beautiful moment. Sometimes I just cry with pride seeing all those passionate young people of all races protesting the injustice against humanity. I think the future looks bright.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
Being LGBTQ, I’ve never been precious about trying to be only male or female. I’m greedy. I want it all. I wanna be femme and I wanna be masculine. I don’t want gender boundaries with my performing art. I wanna do women’s voices as well as men’s — from Marilyn Monroe to Elvis. I don’t care, it’s all fun.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
Disco singer Sylvester, Boy George, Elton John, Divine, John Waters.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride is a declaration that I too am worthy to partake in the promises laid down by our founding fathers — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s celebrate our diversity. Happy Pride!

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Yes! I learned a new skill: performing live on Facebook! My friends were egging me on to do internet living-room concerts. I resisted at first because I’m so private and shy and tech-challenged. I didn’t want to invite the public into my home. But that was all in my head. I started doing free Facebook Live Living Room Concerts every Thursday in May and the fans went crazy and started tipping me like crazy. I included my 85-year-old mom in the show, and everybody loves her! I've learned to get over my shyness and compete with mom for fans! LOL!
Jimmy James in character as Bette Davis - COURTESY OF JIMMY JAMES
  • Courtesy of Jimmy James
  • Jimmy James in character as Bette Davis
COURTESY OF JOSE VILLALOBOS
  • Courtesy of Jose Villalobos
Jose Villalobos is a San Antonio-based visual and performance artist who has exhibited his work both nationally and internationally, and finds peace and joy strolling at the pulga looking for a great bargain.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I think this year we should observe pride through a different lens. We should combat injustices and inequalities that exist amongst our own queer communities. There’s always something we can learn in order to grow and empower others, but most importantly each other.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My identity as a Latinx queer individual definitely influenced my creative output and has helped shape what my work is today, and what it continues to be. I was closeted my entire youth and did not come out until later as an adult. Creating work about my past and future as a Brown queer male is important as there are other struggles and battles we face on a day-to-day basis because of cultural norms, expectations and traditions that are passed down through generations that are still practiced today.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
As artists we have the power to project our voices even louder through the use of our creativity. To have the power to create and amplify our concerns of our future go hand in hand. Through my work I protest the toxicity of machismo through the use of objects that carry a history, specifically within the Norteño culture, by deconstructing and altering them. Although new forms are created, I demonstrate the battle between the acceptance of being maricón and assimilating to cultural expectations.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine definitely affected my work. Usually my installation work takes up a larger space. Being quarantined pushed my creativity in a different direction. It forced me to go back to some basics I hadn’t revisited in a while. While still doing this, I was also thinking of scale and experimentation.
Jose Villalobos’ installation Sin La “S” - COURTESY OF JOSE VILLALOBOS
  • Courtesy of Jose Villalobos
  • Jose Villalobos’ installation Sin La “S”
COURTESY OF KRISTY PEREZ
  • Courtesy of Kristy Perez
Kristy Perez is a multidisciplinary artist who works in a variety of media — from drawing, poetry, abstract painting, video and design to site-specific sculptural installations — and lives in Southtown with her partner/collaborator Britt Lorraine and their 12-year-old chihuahua Anjou.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?

Queer people of color are some of the bravest people in the world and it should be recognized. Perhaps the protests and action that is taking place right now will lead to some change, so that this celebration of the life of people of color becomes more persistent in the minds of all of us on a daily basis. If you are a person of color, you have to fight twice as hard to be heard and treated fairly — and add being queer to that. You’re talking about a very strong and powerful individual. Every moment you live and survive and prosper becomes emblematic. Your self worth and courage to stand and keep walking in the face of adversity is the antidote to ignorance and fear. That’s a lot to carry on your shoulders every day. We should think about that, and yes, we should celebrate that person in our hearts, in our minds and out in public.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
An artist’s political impact is certainly direct as long as one is offered an opportunity to show their work and has the inclination to do so, but the opportunity must arise. The potential for change is great because the true voice of the artist, as we all know, is one that has historically operated from the fringes of society. Unfortunately, that voice that needs so much to be heard is often silenced by the very institutions that should be advocating that voice to a greater audience and continually providing an opportunity for those artists to keep on working. We have a constant situation where White men are still offered the greater reach and the greater pay for their work. With the rise of BLM and the current political state, those running the art-world institutions are scrambling right now to recall their “Black” artists to display and “celebrate” their life and work, and to profit from them too, all the while continuing to financially back the careers of the privileged.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Quarantine did affect some of my workflow but things are back on track. We (Saintlorraine) had a large-scale work that was in process and supposed to open back in May and for a while there we weren’t sure what was going to happen as it had to be postponed indefinitely. I’m happy to say that it is indeed back in the books and is looking like it will be a September opening here in San Antonio … stay tuned!
A sculptural piece and a mixed-media painting by Kristy Perez - COURTESY OF KRISTY PEREZ
  • Courtesy of Kristy Perez
  • A sculptural piece and a mixed-media painting by Kristy Perez
COURTESY OF NICKI LUCIO
  • Courtesy of Nicki Lucio
Nicki Lucio is a San Antonio-based fine artist who has exhibited her paintings on trans life and gender identity at the McNay, frequently travels around the state with her boyfriend and spends way too much time playing video games.


Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My trans identity has definitely had an influence over my work, as much of it explores my experiences, thoughts and emotions as a trans person maneuvering in modern society. As someone who does not fully “pass” as female, I am constantly made aware of the reality of who I am, and what I represent to a lot of people, for better and worse. From encapsulating a year of being unable to find employment as female, to confronting the loathing of my own reflection day after day after day, it is this reality that I explore through much of my artistic work.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
The late Félix González-Torres left a big impression on me during art school. His work on sexuality, gender, sickness and atrophy inspired me to look at myself and these various aspects of my own life and find ways in which I could express these things through objects. Robert Mapplethorpe’s portraiture also inspired me and gave me the confidence to explore my own body in my work and to confront my reflection, which I so despised, which continued throughout the duration of my presence at the McNay [in conjunction with the exhibition “Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today”].

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride, to me, is another way to celebrate and embrace the differences that make us who we are. Gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual … each of us is a living result of a very modern history that is filled with violence, rebellions, hard-fought victories and stories that deserve to be remembered. We still have a way to go, but today, more than any other day in history itself, I can step out into the world and live the best life that I can.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
Art will always be the tool in which artists engage with politics. It is a voice that persists when your own cannot. Just look at what is happening to the White House fence right now. [Washington Post reporter] Hannah Natanson has shown and stated that it’s turning into a makeshift art gallery for all the Black men and women who have died under the police system. Photos, banners, protest signs and memes have become a transformative means of defiance and have turned this barrier into something new. Artists will always have a seat at the political table, whether politics likes it or not. Now, the politics of gender itself has been responsible for the existence for some of my artwork. The infamous North Carolina “Bathroom Bill” motivated me to spawn a 12-foot cubed floating sculpture in defiance of the gross ignorance on display surrounding the passing of that bill. I wanted to illustrate in some fashion how being trans is no simple matter and how much goes into me, just to be me.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
Other than my employment, my art has been the biggest casualty of the quarantine. New supplies stopped shipping, stores were closed and all libraries shuttered their doors. Like a fine wine, depression pairs nicely with slothfulness. I have busied myself making strides to have my studio self-sufficient and financially support me. I have been heavily working with 3D printers as of late, taking creative commissions and have begun involving myself with COVID-related projects, like face-shield production, and soon, a means in which to support the ongoing protests (a 3D-printable “kettle” for smoke grenade neutralization). My work on my reality as a trans person will continue, however, as I am in the planning stage for another series of paintings. With the world slowly opening back up, I’m hoping to get back into the libraries for research again soon.

A “floating” sculpture by Nicki Lucio - COURTESY OF NICKI LUCIO
  • Courtesy of Nicki Lucio
  • A “floating” sculpture by Nicki Lucio
COURTESY OF NINA DONLEY
  • Courtesy of Nina Donley
Nina Donley is a San Antonio-based visual artist who specializes in abstract mediums with various indigenous themes revolving around Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and Incan cultures.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
Pride should be more inclusive with welcoming other minority groups for awareness and change. We need to include our Black nonprofit groups, our Asian nonprofit groups and other ethnic groups that do not get as much attention. We need to open the door to celebrate life and diversity outside the LGBTQ+ labels. We need to be proud to stand up for those who are weakened or those who have been hurt. We need to walk together in an understanding that we are genuinely one race, the human race.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
I have always been inspired by various artists, by their mind and passion. James Baldwin inspires the realistic mindset I have while Salvador Dalí inspires my vision for abstract images.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
People can talk on social media and the circle will never end in who is right or wrong … There are those who stay quiet and do nothing. There are those who will go out and protest peacefully. Then there are those who have a million ideas [about] how to be creative in applying effort in art for social change. Art is a powerful language that can say something that cannot be said verbally. The raw truth can help us relate to each other and feel the sensation that we are not alone, that we can understand through art what our American life has come to.
Indigenous-themed artwork by Nina Donley - COURTESY OF NINA DONLEY
  • Courtesy of Nina Donley
  • Indigenous-themed artwork by Nina Donley
COURTESY OF POLLY ANNA ROCHA
  • Courtesy of Polly Anna Rocha
Polly Anna Rocha is a San Antonio musician, writer, performance artist and comedienne who has garnered local and wider-spread recognition for her diverse body of creative works, including the self-produced 2020 dream-pop album Ladybug and an upcoming poetry collection exploring periods in her transition.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I think any celebration of Pride needs to honor the radical roots that brought forth queer liberation, including the contributions made by Black and Brown trans women and by the lesbian community. Oftentimes, Pride events are sponsored by corporate giants, which make little to no contributions to LGBTQ+ causes outside of surface-level rainbow washing. Furthermore, all the official Pride events I’ve attended have had a heavy police presence, which feels incredibly uncomfortable when Pride began as a response to unjust policing. So, my suggestion is to amplify the voices and stories of those who fought and continue to fight for our rights while maintaining a safe space for Black and Brown folks to celebrate without fear of over-policing.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My personal identity is at the core of my poetry and inspires many of my critical essays, so my experiences as a bisexual trans woman of color are crucial to my creative output as a writer. My music is less informed by my gender or sexual orientation, but I have written songs, like “Princess Charming,” that center on queer femme romance.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
Art and politics are inherently linked — I think it’s difficult to try and divorce the two. Every piece or work is a statement and reflects the world of the artist. When I write poems about transphobia or intolerance I’ve dealt with firsthand, my hope is that they not only connect with others who’ve gone through the same thing, but I wanna wake up my cis audience to what queer and trans people put up with. Art can change hearts, and that’s my hope.

The cover of Polly Anna Rocha's album Ladybug - COURTESY OF POLLY ANNA ROCHA
  • Courtesy of Polly Anna Rocha
  • The cover of Polly Anna Rocha's album Ladybug
René Paul Barilleaux (right) with his husband Tim Hedgepeth - SIGGI RAGNAR
  • Siggi Ragnar
  • René Paul Barilleaux (right) with his husband Tim Hedgepeth
René Paul Barilleaux is the McNay Art Museum’s Head of Curatorial Affairs and shares his home with his husband Tim Hedgepeth and a one-eyed beagle named Pippin.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
While gay men and lesbians have played a huge role in shaping the arts both historically and today, it has not been until recently — perhaps the 1980s is a defining moment here — when LGBTQ+ visual artists began to openly identify as such. LGBTQ+ identity now shapes the work of not only artists but museum directors and curators, art dealers and critics alike. It is impossible for me to think that my conceiving the McNay’s 2019 exhibition, “Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today” was not influenced by me being a gay man. Of course, many talented curators might have conceived a similar exhibition, but I’d like to think my own journey over the past 40-plus years — the period covered in the exhibition — influenced the final product in a very personal and defining way.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
It is no secret to those who know me or are aware of my curatorial endeavors that Andy Warhol has been an artist of significant interest. My love affair for all things Warhol dates from my high school years in the mid-1970s, and my infatuation for the Pop icon has in no way diminished to this day. I have been fortunate to present two exhibitions of Warhol’s work at the McNay, and in doing so have been able to share my passion for his art with many others. But beyond the art itself, I identify with Warhol in a very personal way — I, too, was a similarly shy, awkward, gay, Catholic, mama’s boy who ventured to New York at a pivotal time in my young life and eventually found the person hiding within me.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
For me, LGBTQ+ Pride means living the life I’ve created with my husband Tim. It’s about showing up, every day, honest about who we are and our commitment to one another. It’s really that simple and beautiful.
The entrance to the McNay exhibition “Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today” - COURTESY OF RENÉ PAUL BARILLEAUX
  • Courtesy of René Paul Barilleaux
  • The entrance to the McNay exhibition “Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today”
Rick Frederick (center) in AtticRep’s production of God of Carnage - SIGGI RAGNAR
  • Siggi Ragnar
  • Rick Frederick (center) in AtticRep’s production of God of Carnage
Rick Frederick is a San Antonio-based actor, director, designer and producer who serves as the Director of Resident Company and Community Engagement at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and is dedicated to creating transformative experiences from any position in the process (read: versatile).

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
I am not sure what is appropriate at this time. For myself, I am moved to reflect on how far we have come and how far we need to go. But, above all, avoid comparing our experience with the current status of injustice. Now is the time to look inward, I think. Check your own privilege and Marie Kondo that shit. Even if it does spark joy, it’s time to let it go so others might have a bit more now. Remember what it was like to be afraid, reach out, comfort and stand up in support. We can’t expect to have all of the spotlights, even if it is traditionally our month. What that means for public celebration, I can’t say really. I am trying to keep my mind open and reeducate as much as possible. We watched August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand. I know about his work and life, but there was something significant about relearning him and his work at this time. Amazon Prime has some really great documentaries and thought-provoking, informative offerings that we are taking in now. It’s interesting and not a little disturbing that we haven’t seen or heard of most of this content before the uprising. But, that’s how supremacy works folks! Or, is that capitalism? Or, both! We may not have noticed it before, but we need to take it in now. Ah! Remember, Silence = Death?

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
I attribute my creativity to being gay. I am not sure who I would be otherwise. You might say, as society didn’t have much I wanted to consume, I became a creator. Pretty happy with how that turned out. Oh! Look at that! It does get better! I was the youngest of five kids growing up on Eight Mile in Detroit. I was only three, but I remember the ’68 riots. I spent most of my childhood inside my head, there was a lot going on outside! This manifested itself outwardly with creative pursuits — drawing, painting and ultimately photography and ceramics. Discovering performance through the Michigan Renaissance Festival opened me up to theater. This pretty much aligned with my coming-out process. Although, that took another 10 years! But yes, you can say those years in my head, trying to figure out people’s motivations to keep myself safe, translated well into a career based firmly in examining human behavior.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
I had to think about this for a bit. There are many influences on my work, but I don’t necessarily correlate sexuality with their impact. I often find later that they are/were gay. That being said, Peter Greenaway’s innovation was a big influence in my formative years. His imagery is amazing. He can tell a story with such forceful simplicity. Really stunning stuff. And sexy. Joe Orton helped me feel more comfortable as a gay creative. I appreciated the “in your face” approach to his work. And, for a while, I attempted to emulate his confidence and disdain. Kenneth Anger showed me that we could be fearless, although Catholicism curbed a full investment there for me. There are so many, now that I am unpacking it. I have a relatively dark aesthetic with some clowning and musical theater snuck in along the way. I take from everywhere. Make ’em laugh! Just don’t beat me up!

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
Pride to me? I sometimes joke that pride is a sin, therefore, I try not to have any. Seriously, I did have to work at feeling proud. As I said, I grew up in Detroit where both straight and gay like a good fight. Standing up and shouting felt a lot like pride for a long time. But I couldn’t say I was truly proud. I think I would now say it is feeling constant and strong in your being. If that makes sense. It has taken time to be truly proud. And now that I am, it takes time to maintain balance. My first Pride parade experiences were during the ’90s in Chicago. Those celebrations were opportunities to experience unchallenged strength and joy without hiding a damn thing about myself. If I want to strap on 6 1/2-inch heels and cargo shorts and take the train to Boystown, what you gonna say about it? Nothin! Those years were my training ground towards confidence and comfort. But they didn’t fully form pride for me. Pride for me really started to set in when, after meeting my now-husband [Chris Sauter], my mother spontaneously informed me that she had noticed that I had changed. I was different now that I was in love. She said she could see that now I was a whole man. I was 38. That’s when pride came into my being. Pride for me is standing next to my legally recognized husband in San Antonio, Texas, unflinchingly and unapologetically strong.

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
The arts sooth and entertain, but they absolutely must also (not all the time, but at least some time) challenge the status quo. In society and in politics. The arts are a necessary critical thought mechanism. You know the saying, “Art reflects life.” It does, but add to that and it tells our individual stories to the whole. It is how we see and are seen. The arts inform. I think we have to demand arts funding from our politicians. And that takes artists as well as arts supporters and educators. Hell, any thinking being in our society! It’s funny/not funny, that it was said gay marriage would unravel the fabric of society. In fact, it was the dismantling of our arts education and access that has led us to where we are now. We have replaced problem-solving and collaboration, inherent in arts education, with standardized testing. Our culture, in all of its diversity, is expressed through the arts. Take that away and what do we have? I was trained as a theater artist at the University of Detroit Mercy where authenticity was critical to reaching an audience. I spent 13 years creating work with the European Repertory Company in Chicago, where we lived by the teaching of Jerzy Grotowski and Towards a Poor Theatre, that begins with the idea that “theater is dead” and must be reexamined. Soon after moving to San Antonio I became involved with AtticRep, which was started through funding from the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogue Grant. My creative career has been pretty much focused in work that challenges as well as entertains. I continue to approach my theatrical practice as a secular religious gathering. “Wherever two or more are gathered” and all of that. Being secular, I think that art is the soul of politics and must serve as a balance. Also, it is of the people and for the people. It isn’t an organized doctrine. It is a practice of examining the world we live in and pushing thought in new directions. Art in all forms is a tool to poke, prod and examine our motivations and preconceptions and moves us forward. Think about the word “creativity.” It is active, participatory. Think creative force. It’s life.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
For the past three years I have not been on stage much, but I have enjoyed the extraordinary opportunity to work at the Tobin Center where my job is to facilitate our seven resident companies and to ensure they are being heard, helped and advocated for. I also facilitate inviting and nourishing experiences for guests from across all demographics of San Antonio and the world. And my job is also to push and challenge the status quo to be certain we speak to the needs of our community. It was a shock to go from being surrounded by people every day and forever on my creative toes to sharing a bungalow with my husband, three cats and four dogs and silence. I have spent a lot of time back inside my head doing some tidying up. Quarantine and furlough offered the opportunity to challenge the idea that “if I had the time, I would…” Well, I had to admit, here is a good chunk of time, what are you going to do with it? I’ve been making things again. We will see where that leads.
Tim Hedgepeth (left) with his husband René Paul Barilleaux - SIGGI RAGNAR
  • Siggi Ragnar
  • Tim Hedgepeth (left) with his husband René Paul Barilleaux
Tim Hedgepeth is a theater artist and educator who teaches at Northwest Vista College, directs and acts for the Public Theatre and the Woodlawn, and lives with his husband René Paul Barilleaux and their dog Pippin.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
The recent passing of the great Larry Kramer in tandem with what I feel to be a renewed and passionate support of Black Lives Matter has me reading again about ACT UP and the necessity of political protest (peaceful and otherwise). Kramer’s The Normal Heart remains, for me, a harrowing and heartbreaking account of the AIDS crisis and the civil disobedience it inspired. Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Barry Jenkin’ Moonlight, Martin Sherman’s Bent, William Hoffman’s As Is, Noel Coward’s Design for Living and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple are works to which I constantly return. Oh, and everything by Joe Orton and Charles Busch.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My profession is theater. And all theater is gay. Theater is about make-believe, actors pretending to be someone they are not, tragic and fabulous beauty, quick wit and brilliant prose, sparkling fantasy and gut-punching realism, secrets and lies, love and betrayal, power and fear. In short, the LGBTQ+ experience. Theater is, for me, the highest art form because of its overwhelming sensitivity to life and the human condition, as experienced by LGBTQ+ artists since the beginning of time. The Oresteia, The Trojan Women and Medea are among the greatest drag shows ever written: brilliant, classic, high-pitched melodrama plus men dressed as powerful women. Who could ask for anything more?

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
I believe most of theater is political. Plays reflect life, and life is political. A few years ago, I saw Ivo Van Hove’s startling revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which pretty much knocked my socks off. It renewed my interest in a play I have known for years. Recently I directed it for Northwest Vista College as a reflection on being an American during the reign of Trump. No one is safe. Several years ago, for NVC I directed Cabaret, which remains a strong condemnation of anyone who looks the other way when their freedom is at stake. My bucket list includes Paula Vogel’s Indecent and Brecht’s Mother Courage. But my favorite production of all time is still the Jerry Herman musical Mame, which is the gayest show of all time. And, thus, remains surprisingly political for its time. Nothing will ever surpass it. I adore it.
The company of Northwest Vista College’s production of Cabaret, directed by Tim Hedgepeth - SIGGI RAGNAR
  • Siggi Ragnar
  • The company of Northwest Vista College’s production of Cabaret, directed by Tim Hedgepeth
COURTESY OF WESLEY HARVEY
  • Courtesy of Wesley Harvey
Wesley Harvey is an Atlanta-based visual artist and educator who has exhibited his homoerotic ceramics across the United States and internationally, lived in San Antonio for six years (and deeply misses the city and art community) and now enjoys his days living as a Georgia peach.

With Gay Pride month coinciding with nationwide protests over racial injustice, how should we observe Pride this year?
We are currently living in such an odd time that involves a global pandemic and a lack of national leadership that is silent about the racial injustice that continues to happen. Even with the cancelations of gay pride events across the world, I feel that it will allow us to take a step back and remember that all these gay pride events we celebrate today started with a trans Black woman who refused to be silent. Celebrating gay pride this year means that no one should be silent about the racial injustice that continues to happen. It is time for every single person, gay or straight, to no longer be silent.

Has LGBTQ+ identity influenced your creative output in any way? If so, how?
My LGBTQ+ identity has greatly influenced my creative output over the years. Being able to do research at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University was very crucial to my studio practice while doing my undergraduate studies. Currently, my research has been looking more at the history of objects within gay male history and how these objects carry so much weight. Recently I did a series, the “Handkerchief Series,” that looked at how the color of the hanky and where it was worn signified the sex act that you were looking for. It allowed for this type of secret code among gay men, no matter what setting they were in, to communicate about sex in a covert way.

Which LGBTQ+ artists (living or dead) have made impressions on you or your work?
I love, love, love Andy Warhol and the aura that he had around him. In my studio practice, I take inspiration from his imagery, specifically his lips, bananas, and flowers. Robert Mapplethorpe showed me that being deviant can be accepted by the mainstream. Howard Kottler and Mark Burns are two artists who worked in the medium of ceramics that have made the most impressions on me. Howard Kottler was the first ceramic artist to address issues of homoeroticism and gay identity with collage and decals on ready-made porcelain plates. Mark Burns was one of Kottler’s graduate students who became a mentor to me and continues to make artwork today. Burns addresses issues of homoeroticism and deviant sexuality with his slip-cast sculptures that start with kitsch and end with sex.

What does LGBTQ+ Pride mean to you? Does it spark visuals or memories beyond parades and rainbow flags?
LGBTQ+ Pride to me means that I can be whoever I want and need to be with acceptance and zero shame in my community. There will always be parades and rainbows but our LGBTQ+ history and my personal memories of first coming out will always be above parades and rainbows. Now, I do love a good gay pride with some Jello shots and sexy men and high heels!

Where do you see the role of artists within the realm of politics?
I think the time is now for more artists to enter the realm of political influences and activism within the art world and their own studio practice. As visual artists we have the ability to make bold statements through our artwork that can have a lasting impact, especially in our current political climate. It is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately with my own artwork. I have touched on it a few times in the past and really want to examine this more. I have a voice and I want people to know where I stand.

Has quarantine affected your work in any surprising ways?
This quarantine affected my studio practice way more than I thought it would. When the craziness began, like other artists I know, I did not have the mental energy to work in my studio. Once that mental block was controllable, I found that I had a new energy in the studio and began trying out some very new things that I am excited to share with the public soon. I am looking at new subject matter within gay history that will have political statements and much more deviant sexual subject matter.
Wesley Harvey, Piss Freak - COURTESY OF WESLEY HARVEY
  • Courtesy of Wesley Harvey
  • Wesley Harvey, Piss Freak

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