01 December 2022 In a state where anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has recently dominated the headlines, the annual gathering of artists sees queerness out in front.
This year’s Art Basel Miami brings queer openness and potential to Florida, despite the best efforts of those who govern the state to do the exact opposite. In 2022, Florida became an epicenter of anti-LGBTQ+ hate legislation, with Governor Ron DeSantis and his Republican allies infamously passing a “Don’t Say Gay” law, virtually erasing LGBTQ+ identities throughout the state’s K-12 educational system. DeSantis also recently made it illegal to give transgender youth lifesaving gender-affirming medical care, and blocked trans people of any age from accessing such medical care via state health insurance.
Against this climate of state-sponsored hatred toward LGBTQ+ individuals, Art Basel Miami flaunts a vibrant, diverse group of queer artists. Envisioning alternatives to dominant ideas about religion, relationships, capitalism and gender, these artists embrace their personal stories and their queerness to fuel innovation.
Argentinian Carlos Herrera is a great example: reclaiming the religious and pastoral traditions central to his upbringing in the Santa Fe province of Argentina, Herrera uses Catholic iconography to explore the link between religion and queer sexuality. His booth at Art Basel Miami includes a minimalist bed that doubles as a representation of the stigmata of St Francis de Assisi. Another startling piece covers a wall of his booth in gigantic spider figurines hauling up lengths of bone and skull.
“In the gay community there are many, many religious people,” said Herrera, as interpreted by his gallerist Mora Bacal. “Religion and art are like a dual relationship that has allowed me to explore my own identity. Questions of sex, religion and death run through all of my process and my work.”
Similarly, Mexican artist Frieda Toranzo Jaeger works with what she calls “semiological vandalism” – by which she “vandalizes” dominant images and thus injects new, subversive meaning into them. Car engines have lately predominated her work, as she sees them as representative of the massive systems that govern the world. At Art Basel Miami, Toranzo Jaeger is exhibiting an image of a car engine deconstructed into the form of a flower, shot through with braided thread. By turning a car engine into a flower adorned with braids, she injects her queerness and womanhood into a traditionally patriarchal structure.
“I wanted to see what would happen to the meaning of these symbols if I as a queer woman stepped in and owned them,” she said. “What would happen if I gave myself the agency to do so. Being queer is amazing, and I don’t want an identity that’s just reduced to consumption. I love what José Esteban Muñoz says in Cruising Utopia, that queerness is something that we will never be, we will always be becoming queer.”