Like many others, my Instagram feed is a conveyer belt of curated selfies and risqué finsta posts—and I love it. Instagram keeps me in touch with my high school friends and helps me remember that tropical vacation they took over winter break. But with Instagram comes FOMO, and I am missing out. I am missing some of the diverse voices I was lucky to be inundated with daily in my arts high school. I mean the queer kids, more specifically.
Penn is no stranger to the phenomena I’ve been grappling with recently myself: queer alienation. From the isolation on campus to the struggles of hiding behind a mask to fit in, it’s part of the national issue of higher rates of mental illness in the queer community, which Penn is by no means exempt from. In minor ways, Instagram can be a positive tool to combat this. Some social media use, like Facebook, has been associated with positive psychological outcomes like lower depression and anxiety. Of course, Instagram is no substitute for seeking mental health resources or meeting real companions at a gay club, but it does help some with that feeling of isolation, in reminding you that you're not alone. As a queer person myself, following queer artists has been a way to stay creative, informed, and connected. And if you’re looking to diversify or beautify your feed, I have some favorites to suggest.
Lula Hyers is a photographer whose portraiture uses halation and warm tones. She identifies as pansexual and has used her medium to bring queer issues to light through her project New York’s Queer Youth. On this particular project, Hyers said, “it might help other people to understand queerness but this is about representation and celebration for us, by us." Self empowerment for people of all body types, all genders, and all sexualities, grace the grid of Hyers’ Instagram.
Kate Just’s preferred medium is, as her handle suggests, yarn. Her knit art pays homage to feminist figures like Yayoi Kusama, Alma Lopez, and Peaches. The common thread between these women is that "every single one of them is a challenge to the limits around gender, sexuality and even representation of women, gender and sexuality in art,” as she says in an interview with The Ladies Network. But Just’s instagram isn’t solely for posting her artwork; it also delves into her personal life with images from New Delhi Pride and captures of friends, a powerful tool to remind us of the community.
Trans artist and writer Amos Mac is, as stated in his Instagram bio, first and foremost, human. His brightly colored and emotive portraits have been published in The New York Times, Vogue Italia, and OUT, and feature queer models of all identities. He is also the founding editor and creative director of Original Plumbing, a publication for trans males. Mac’s Instagram manages to hit the highlights of his personal life as well, from photos of him around LA to portraits of his boyfriend, Samuel Early, who has modeled for him many times, most recently for OUT’s 25th anniversary issue.
Mickalene Thomas’ Instagram is covered in glittery art, busy prints, and photos of her girlfriend. Thomas works in a multitude of mediums, from print, to sculpture, to installation, to collage, and have appeared at the Whitney, the Smithsonian, and the Guggenheim. Her subjects, like herself, are black women, empowered within their own sexuality. In an interview in Elle, Thomas expressed that the juxtaposition of beauty, glitz, and politics is meant to draw the viewer in and socially inspire.
It's no surprise that social media is a huge vehicle for social change, especially in terms of representation. But at its core is its ability to build change starting from the individual. Look these artists up. Follow them. You'll see a whole world of beauty in community, art, and support.