Latinx artists who identify as LGBTQ often tend to be overlooked by prominent arts organizations, according to photographer Isaac Reyes.
Reyes, a queer Mexican man, tried for four years to have his artwork displayed at Art League Houston. His photography is finally being showcased at that Montrose Boulevard gallery in an exhibit entitled Here, Ahora: Houston, Latinx, Queer Artists Under 30, which runs through May 4.
“You’re a double-minority when you’re Latin and you’re also queer,” Reyes, 27, says. “There are queer Latin artists all over Houston, which is why this takeover is so great. We get to share all of our different experiences.”
Curated by Reyes Ramirez, the exhibit features the work of seven LGBTQ Houston artists from various parts of Latin America. Along with Isaac Reyes’ photography, the exhibit includes projects by Leticia Contreras, Jessica González, Romeo Harrell, Ángel Lartigue, Trevon Latin, and Moe Penders.
LGBTQ ally Ramirez partnered with several artists over a year ago to begin planning for an exhibit that would exclusively showcase creations by queer Latinx Houstonians. As a Houston writer who often works with marginalized communities, he organized Here, Ahora so that more LGBTQ Latinx artists could be recognized and compensated for their work.
“I wanted to help my friends who are a part of the LGBTQ community thrive in a society that is predominantly straight and cis,” Ramirez says. “I also wanted to make sure that they were being paid for what they do.”
Even with all of the descriptors in the show’s title, a large exhibit was still able to be assembled featuring only folks who matched its categories. Ramirez says that the show is proof that these artists exist and need to be included in more exhibits.
“I’m not a curator. I don’t do this for a living, so it shouldn’t have been my job to put this together,” Ramirez says. “Houston is home to so many queer Latinx artists. There is no excuse for professionals to not feature more of these people.”
Moe Penders, a 30-year-old nonbinary artist from El Salvador, can attest to not having much support as an openly queer person.
“Queer Latinx people don’t receive a lot of support in general, even within our own communities,” Penders says. “Many of our families don’t accept us or acknowledge our identities. But we exist, and it’s important that we talk about it. Recognition is one of the reasons why we exist.”
Estudios de Capirucho, the photograph that Penders will showcase at the Art League, is a critique of heteronormativity and the way that society views relationships. A capirucho is a wooden stick with a string tied to it and attached to a barrel with a hole in it. The toy is used to play a game where the objective is to put the stick in the hole consecutively. In many Latin American countries, the term capichuro is also used in reference to having sex.
Penders’ piece shows the game of capichuro in action. Under the image is a caption that translates as “Same shit, different light. Things change in a different place, but I am not that toy.”
“My art talks a lot about my identity, but also in reference to my culture,” Penders says. “In my experience, I have not had the same privileges that heterosexual people have. Heterosexual relationships tend to be given more value by society.”
Penders, who is a graduate of the University of Houston, will curate a El Chow: Mango Verde, an exhibit featuring the works of queer, Latinx, Houston-based artists, at Sabine Street Studios on April 3.
Reyes grew up being shuttled back and forth between homes in Mexico and Houston. When he moved to Houston permanently for college, Reyes’ immediate family stayed behind in Mexico.
After becoming distraught about exploring his queerness and living so far from his family, Reyes decided to take a self-portrait on his birthday to capture what he was going through. The following year, he decided to take another birthday self-portrait, and has done so consecutively for 10 years. The series of photographs will be part of the Here, Ahora exhibit.
“Over those 10 images, you can see my evolution of becoming more comfortable with my queerness,” Reyes says. “When I started, I was frustrated because I wanted to be out, but I was worried about how my parents would react. Last year, I started exploring the art of drag.”
Reyes says that attendees who visit Here, Ahora can look forward to coming away with a better understanding of what it means to be an LGBTQ Latinx person.
“All of the artists contribute something completely different,” Reyes says. “We all have unique experiences. You will see how diverse being queer [can be] when you are also Latinx.”
On May 2, Ramirez and Lupe Mendez will present Here, Ahora: Houston Conversations, Queer Art + Lit, a reading held in conjunction with their Art League exhibit.
What: Here, Ahora: Houston, Latina, Queer Artists Under 30
When: March 22-May 4
Where: Art League Houston