By Emily Watlington
Whether painting figures beyond the confines of the gender binary with blurry ambiguity or memorializing formative moments of sexual exploration in exquisite detail, a growing group of painters is developing a new visual vocabulary for depicting queer intimacy. Melding ambitions at one personal, political, and painterly, this cohort celebrates queer intimacy—emphatically and at times with trepidation, delicately refuting the oppressive gazes that sometimes accompany visibility. Their works range from sexy to sad, rowdy to raw, and hot to heavy, all the while doing the important work of expanding our repertoire of intimate imagery.
Jenna Gribbon, who was born in Tennessee and lives in Brooklyn, has made dozens of paintings of her fiancée, the indie musician Torres. In her paintings, the artist seeks a mingling of “motherhood, sexuality, humor, and the everyday, since we often act as if we have to relegate separate parts of ourselves to these things, which is a bit absurd,” as she told Art in America in 2019. Her subjects have neon nipples that are impossible to miss. The move to highlight that part of her figures’ bodies is a playful effort to make viewers self-conscious about their gazes.