In the ever-fruitful world of the arts, LGBTQ people are front and center in the effort to portray the unending diversity and the exceptional talents of our community. Charlotte, N.C. will welcome a number of queer-identified artists in the coming season, and among them, visual artists whose works challenge the cis-het norm.


Through Oct. 13
The Light Factory

One such exhibition already opened on Aug. 24 at The Light Factory, 1817 Central Ave., and will be on display until Oct. 13. The collection, Expuesta — meaning “Exposed” — features the work of 10 different Mexican photographers: Luis Arturo Aguirre, Ana Casas Broda, Carol Espíndola, Carlos Leon, Antonio Lozano, Nelson Morales, Diego Moreno, Luis Enrique Pérez, Roberto Tondopó and Andrés Juárez Troncoso.

Several of these photographers spoke to qnotes about their work’s inspiration and purpose, particularly themes that reveal a unique cultural difference in the way gender is perceived in Mexico compared to the U.S.

Nelson Morales

Photographer Nelson Morales hails from Unión Hidalgo, Oaxaca in Mexico, and his work focuses on sexual diversity, gender and identity. His home region, the isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, is also home to one of the most inclusive cultures in the nation, recognizing the culture of the “Muxe” — a label with which Morales himself identifies, describing a mix of traditionally feminine and masculine characteristics within an individual.

“There exist different types of muxes. One of them dresses as a woman and wants to be a woman. The other type of muxe does not dress like a woman, like me,” Morales said. “Photography was the means to approach the muxe community, over time I became friends with them, somehow I became their accomplice, at the same time I also accepted my own identity.”

Morales’ muxe identity interacts with his label as an openly gay man. His identity inspired his art and was influenced in turn.

“The strength and courage of women has always been a great feature of our culture,” said Morales of Oaxaca. “I hope to inspire the LGBTQ community of the United States to see other communities where freedom of expression exists a little more, and also that the general viewer can confront a bit with himself to see images that can be a little challenging.”

Another photographer of the Expuesta exhibition, Luis Arturo Aguirre, travels from Acapulco, Guerrero in Mexico to display his work at The Light Factory. Aguirre is no stranger to travel; he has exhibited his work in Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela and France, as well as his native Mexico.

Aguirre said that a central theme of his images can be traced back to a childhood memory. Around seven years old, Aguirre remembers visiting the central market in Acapulco to shop with his aunt. It was the first time he saw a person he calls a “transvestite.” The word, sometimes thought slanderous, in this case is a more direct translation from the Spanish “vestida,” a commonly-used term for those who are pronounced male at birth, but whose gender presentation is distinctly female.

Young Aguirre asked his aunt about the person, and she replied that the individual was “a boy-girl.” The moment was one of confusion — but also inspiration for adult Aguirre to depict gender-bending themes in his photography. His contribution to the Light Factory show is called “desvestidas,” which translates to “undressed.”

“We passed a fruit stand and there ‘he’ was with his curly hair, profound dark skin, strong arms, eyelids painted with electric blue eye shadow and his red lips,” Aguirre said. “A game of double identity between masculine and feminine is generated…Making use of cliché and obviousness, I have represented different stories about real and utopian women.”

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William Ivey Long: Costume Designs 2007-2016

Sept. 23 through June 3, 2018
Mint Museum Uptown
at Levine Center for the Arts

North Carolina native and award-winning William Ivey Long has been at the forefront of costume design
for shows from the big lights of Broadway to the small screen of television such as
‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again.’

Visual art doesn’t always have to be two-dimensional, and costume designer William Ivey Long’s work proves that beautiful and provocative art comes to life on a stage. The six-time Tony award-winning designer appears in person at the Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon St., for his exhibit’s Sept. 23 opening day. Long will participate in exhibit tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., give a lecture at 2:30 p.m., and sign copies of his book at 4 p.m.

William Ivey Long.
Photo Credit:

Long has decades of theatrical success under his belt, and a cabinet of awards that is likely overflowing. His recent work include the 2013 Broadway musical “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and 2016 television specials “Grease Live!” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.”

Though undeniably successful on a national level, Long’s roots lie in Raleigh, N.C., where he was born before growing up in Rock Hill, S.C. Beginning his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and ending with an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, Long said that the biggest influence on his career was his apprenticeship under couturier Charles James.

“Fashion design and costume design are similar in that both involve mounting shows whose story is told through clothing,” said Long. “Mr. James was both my fashion mentor and hero, and he taught me a great deal about how to tell a very effective story through garments.”

American Indian Artist Showcase

Oct. 7
McMahon Fine Arts Center
at Providence Day School

Indigenous artist and lesbian Linzy Sides (pictured above) brings her American Indian heritage to her work
as she breaks with tradition and portrays fellow
American Indian women in powerful, traditionally
male roles. Sides is of Lumbee descent.

The inauguration of a new annual showcase takes Charlotte by storm on Oct. 7 at Providence Day School’s McMahon Fine Arts Center, 5800 Sardis Rd. The event, sponsored by the American Indian Party, features authentic traditional and modern American Indian styles, food, pottery, paintings, leather goods and other crafts. An artist and cultural presentation is slated to take place from 1-2 p.m., with the arts and crafts sale scheduled from 2-5 p.m.

Indigenous artists flock to display and sell their work at the showcase, including Charlotte LGBTQ advocate and photographer Linzy Sides. Sides, of Lumbee descent, identifies as a lesbian who has a powerful message to communicate through her art.

“I want, need, my art to speak loudly and make people listen,” Sides said. “But also, to make them think outside the norm. We all have been brainwashed with this idea of normalcy, of traditional standards that if broken, should be hidden and censored and apologized for.”

The photographer’s resistance of conformity and censorship led her to portray fellow American Indian women in powerful, traditionally male roles.

“The majority of my projects and photography series are based around subjects playing roles that are wildly considered ‘inappropriate’ for that specific gender,” Sides said. “I also find that my mind likes to revel in the beauty in darkness, so my images tend to have a bit of a morbid or gothic feel…Twisted and tied, mangled and torn, dark and disturbing, but wildly beautiful with a life-altering message.”