If you’re an avid listener of the NOT REAL ART podcast, you already know art has the ability to connect people across cultures and express ideas that words can’t. Art, in all its forms, has immense power to shape our beliefs. Authentic representation can break down social barriers, open minds, and even become a source of inspiration.
On today’s episode, host Scott “Sourdough” Power sits down with figurative painter and NOT REAL ART grant winner Joan Cox to discuss the power of representation and visibility in the arts. Working large-scale, Joan creates richly detailed visual narratives that portray queer relationships as complex, beautiful, and necessary. “I look to [artists of color] who are doing beautiful things with figurative work to be inspired by them and do the same with queer work,” she tells Scott. “Trying to put that painting out there, that image, that narrative, that [lesbians] are just the same as every other couple.”
Historically speaking, Joan tells us, images of lesbian couples have either been repressed or justified as erotic material for the male gaze. “You walk into a museum and you see thousands of years of history of Western art where—if you see two or three women together—they’re just to be viewed by men,” she says “They’re dancing naked in a circle [or] they’re sitting naked on a lawn or they’re pretending to be some [mythical creatures], rather than their authentic selves.” Inspired by the couples in her community, Joan shifts our perspective by demystifying queer relationships—including her own. In her paintings she often appears alongside her partner of 21 years as they reenact mundane yet intimate moments from their lives. By celebrating the female gaze, Joan’s work opens up dialogue through a complex investigation of cultural norms, sexual identities, and body politics.
Tune into this week’s episode to hear all about Joan’s journey into the world of queer art. You’ll hear why she believes nuanced representation of the human experience can create understanding and help facilitate difficult conversations. We also touch on the importance of creative expression, why culture is like a constantly moving river, and what it means to be either a switch blade or Swiss Army knife. Make sure you don’t miss our compelling conversation with NOT REAL ART grant winner Joan Cox.