Last month’s queer art showcase, SPECTRA, garnered the attention of over 200 patrons with a scintillating display of original artwork, drag performance, and a musical number by LA singer-songwriter, Tiaan, at Revelator Atlanta Westside on Friday, March 23rd.
Produced by husband team Cameron Lee and Rigel Gemini, the showcase transformed Revelator’s Westside location into a patchwork of dedicated talent from all corners of Atlanta’s art community, ranging from watercolor caricatures to fashion-forward photography. The floor opened up to some of the city’s most dynamic creators, including the works of Shanisia Person, Jon Dean, LaRue Caillet, Savana Ogburn, Taylor Alexander, and Cameron Lee.
For locals, it’s no secret that Atlanta has become a mecca for working artists. Yet, surprisingly, showcases like SPECTRA can be a rare sighting, especially for the LGBTQ community.
Co-producer and headlining artist, Cameron Lee, finds that representation in one’s own community is necessary for a thriving queer arts scene.
“I think there is always more room for inclusion,” Lee says. “I hope people go home and create some art, or purchase from an artist so they can continue to create more. It's all about creating a fun event to support local queer artists and provide visibility into the minds and experiences of our community.”
Cameron’s work was well-received in Los Angeles after the release of his photo-collage series, “Flores Fatales” in 2017. The project drew inspiration from the botanical beasts that grow in Hollywood and our relationship with the natural world, paired with the voracity of high-fashion and our thirst for danger. In June of 2017, Cameron brought his brand of sharp imagery to Atlanta, displaying his latest work, “Spectra”, at the showcase. This sequel to Flores Fatales illustrates the push-pull relationship between us and our environment, a romantic nuance that proves just how connected we truly are.
“An artist I admire is Frida Kahlo, and I always loved how she felt like a part of the wildlife in her self-portraits,” Lee says. “So the idea was to create these swirling floral environments that celebrate what’s going on around us.”
“A lot of the inspiration came from the fashion-forward culture of living in Hollywood and the plants that were incorporated into neighborhoods and landscapes of LA. I photographed every element, including exotic animals,” Lee says.
As with the flora and fauna that thrive in our own backyards, so do artists of Atlanta. While support from one’s own community is expected, exposure to the rest of the city can take an artist to new heights.
“I think visibility is the best way to elevate queer art,” says Savana Ogburn, craft artist and photographer, whose latest collection of zines were on display at the showcase. “I would love to see more and more events like SPECTRA happening all over the city.”
“I’m still a new resident, with April 1st marking one year. My previous city did not have a queer arts scene at all,” says LaRue Caillet, a fashion photographer and designer.
“There wasn’t a lot of space for new artists to stretch their legs and be seen. So, when I moved here and did some research, I found a sort of warm welcome to explore.” Caillet showed some of his digital photography, with pieces highlighting the beauty of the human form, from exposed veins to curtains pouring over the subject’s shoulders.
“Atlanta is doing a great job at incorporating artists into the development of the city, like with what’s happening on the Beltline,” Lee says. “Public murals, installations, and performances that are accessible to everyone should be the goal.”
That was the blueprint for SPECTRA at Revelator Westside, to offer a space for creation and celebration for local artists, without overhead expenses.
Jon Dean, photographer and founder of Atlanta’s only queer arts publication, Wussy Mag, pines for more opportunities for the city’s homegrown talent.
“Atlanta’s arts scene is generally super supportive of new ideas and creators, but continued support for artists is something difficult to find,” Dean says. “I'd like to see more collectors investing in new artists and ideas, scenes working together, and the bigger arts institutions stepping up to showcase local talent.”
Shanisia Person, Atlanta-based illustrator, showed a collection of colorful portraits in various mediums, from pencil to oil paint, at SPECTRA. Person also believes that inclusion and risk-taking are vital to the development of queer arts in any city.
“The galleries that usually show expensive work with commission deals should donate their space to people they normally would not,” Person says.
Person is heavily inspired by the human form, sex and those complicated emotions that are difficult to explain. “I start everything in pencil or pen because I get really hard on myself about shape, and work up the layers from there. That is why I respond so well to watercolor, because it’s all about layers.”
The showcase gave some of Atlanta’s most talented artists the chance to present their latest work without any hefty vendor fees or expenses, and Rigel made sure that all artists secured 100% of commission from their sales. Thanks to the evening’s sponsors, artists were not charged a cent.
This kind of communal effort to support the arts was also evident in the razzle-dazzle drag performances by LaRico and Taejah, who closed out the evening decked in spice. In typical cabaret fashion, performers were tipped by the patrons. Tiaan, an LA-based musician, also commanded the floor with songs from her debut EP. Tiaan met Cameron and Rigel in LA, and is a model for one of the pieces featured in the Flores Fatales series.
Much like a quilt, the fabric of Atlanta’s art scene is comprised of many different styles and personas that each express a unique attitude unlike any other city. Every piece of design is paramount to holding the quilt together, and while you may inspect individual corners, when you step back and admire the stitching, it’s just one big work of art.
Joey Sevin: If given a paintbrush, how would you re-create the world around you?
Cameron Lee: I'd re-create so many things, especially with what's happening politically right now. In a more general sense, I would create a world where there is mutual respect for all living things, where we can appreciate differences, and do without ego.
LaRue Caillet: I would create a world without fear. My canvas would be covered with the warm embrace of love, hope, laughter, and courage.
Shanisia Person: I'd take that free gift and run with it! Draw as many naked and free people as possible on everything and hope it enlightens people to the fact that being human shouldn't be taboo, most people have the same vices, we're just told to suppress them.
Taylor Alexander: I would probably make everything look like a Keith Haring painting. Or maybe even something pointillist. Because that's what we really are as a society...tiny dots trying to create something bigger than ourselves.
Jon Dean: More murals, galleries, theaters, and artist spaces on every corner. I want to see more positive stories being told.
Savana Ogburn: I’d paint eyelashes on everything, probably.
Text by: Joey Sevin
Photos courtesy of: Beatrice Domingo Photography