This month is LGBT+ History month. LGBT+ History Month is a month-long celebration that recognises the triumphs and legacy of LGBT+ historical figures. This is in aid to promote equality and diversity in our society and communities. Our team would like to join you in celebrating this remarkable campaign. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march held in the UK in 1972. This year the theme is art. In this blog post, I will explore artwork produced by prominent LGBT+ artists.

Gilbert Baker

Gilbert has produced, arguably the most recognisable artwork to represent a community. Gilbert’s most famed artwork is the Pride Flag. The colours of the flag each represent an attribute.

  • Red – Life
  • Orange – Healing
  • Yellow – Sunlight
  • Green – Nature
  • Indigo – Serenity
  • Violet – Spirit

The original design for the flag was produced with eight colours, today we have six. Between the years 1978-1979, the colours pink and turquoise were removed. The demand for the flag became extremely high after the assassination of Harvey Milk as it was used to raise awareness of the persecution faced by LGBT+ community members. The colour pink was too difficult to source and was dropped to meet the demand. The turquoise stripe was frequently hidden from view by streetlights and flag poles. This led to the colour being removed. As such, we now have our six colour flags.

The Pride flag is a stunning piece of vexillography taking inspiration from designs that perpetuated historical persecution and used them to reclaim the identities of these designs that were used to exclude members of the LGBT+ community. For example, the triangle shape used in additional flags that support similar or allied movements were inspired by the Pink Triangles. Other allied flags have observed the same format of simple horizontal stripes to showcase identity for a specific community.

Gilbert refused to patent the flag design because doing so was considered not in keeping with the meaning of the flag and the overall movement in the LGBT+ community. This helped keep the flag in the public domain and free to use around the world.

Keith Haring

Keith Haring wearing a blue t-shirt standing in front of one of his artworks.
Keith Haring, artist.

Haring was an American street artist who was a prominent advocate for LGBT+ rights and anti-AIDS stigmatisation. Haring’s artwork is very recognisable with its bright colours and lack of empty space on a canvas.

Haring felt that art should be for everyone and that art often concentrated too much on the individual. So in their works, used figures rather than people in the pieces. Keith would often request the price for their artwork to be reduced so that more people had the opportunity to purchase it. The choice to paint across a whole canvas was to provide a “never-ending” story that furthers the sense of publicness in the artwork.

Keith started producing artwork on the streets and continued to produce public murals to draw attention to political issues. For example, Keith painted a section of the Berlin Wall to draw attention to the reunification of Germany. When the wall was destroyed so was his artwork. Other examples include the Todos Juntos Podemos Parar el SIDA, which was painted to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic. Today, Keith is remembered as a daring artist who used street art to draw attention to political and social issues.

A vibrant painting of multi-coloured figures. The theme of this mural is that of peace and harmony in the world.
The public mural Tuttomondo, painted by Keith Haring

Fiore de Henriquez

De Henriquez was a sculptor revered for the androgynous features present in their artwork. Fiore struggled throughout their life with gender identity and this is reflected in their artwork. Fiore’s artwork was deliberately gender-ambiguous, this is famously demonstrated in Margot Fonteyn’s bust, which is on exhibition at the Hampshire Cultural Trust Headquarters.

Fiore de Henriques is shaping a clay bust with their hands.
Fiore de Henriques shaping a bust

De Henriquez’s gender identity was heavily featured in their artwork. This is seen in motifs of paired heads, representing the multiple gender identities in one person. These themes are subtly included in their classical style of sculpting and can be identified in Fiero’s later works including sculptures of Queen Elizabeth the second, Igor Stravinsky, Peter Ustinov, Oprah Winfrey, Laurence Olivier, and President Kennedy among many others.

The legacy of Fiore’s artwork remains prominent today as artworks inspired by Fiore’s work also aim to remove or reduce the binary nature of gender identities that modern societies perpetuate.

What is next?

I found researching these artists inspiring and will continue to be a supportive and vocal ally for this incredible community. You can find more on how the University of Southampton is celebrating LGBT+ History month, on the SUSU page.

You can nominate a course that you feel has championed accessibility and inclusiveness in the Blackboard and VLE awards.

Telephone call with the Hampshire Cultural Headquarters

Celebrating LGBT+ History Month

Post navigation

What do you think? Leave us a comment to share your thoughts...