In recent decades, art historians have contextualized images of homosexuality and homoeroticism that appear throughout the history of art and visual culture, revising and expanding our understanding of representations of same-sex desire, romance, and companionship. A global survey of queer art would include art from Greece, Rome, China Peru, India, Mexico, as well as the medieval, Renaissance, and early modern periods.
So what exactly makes a work of art “queer”? While there’s no such category as queer art per se,
Kehinde Wiley is another artist who has mined art history to create new, empowering images of gender, race and sexuality. Born in 1977 in Los Angeles, Wiley is known for his naturalistic and heroic portraits of people of color, many of which are sourced from Old Master paintings. Wiley uses a “street casting” process; he approaches young men on the street, invites them to his studio to look through art history books, lets them choose an image, then paints their picture in a powerful pose while the models remain in their street clothes. The result is larger-than-life paintings with highly patterned backgrounds that ask us to rethink our assumptions about masculinity and art history. The models remain anonymous, and the titles are derived from their art historical source.