CLAYTON ON ART: Mian Carvin celebrates queer artists

By Alec Clayton on December 11, 2012


Mian Carvin is a painter and a writer and a filmmaker from Olympia. She lives on a farm just out of town with goats and chickens and cats and her life partner of many years. Her abstract paintings, which I happen to like very much, have been displayed at Matter Gallery in Olympia; although there are none shown on Matter's website at the present time. What can be found there is a nice little statement about her paintings:

"I began painting as a means of distraction during an emotionally difficult period in my life.  Before long, it became a form of meditation.  When I paint now, it is more like a dance.

"All my work is done using recycled wood upon which I layer various types of paints (also recycled), as well as oil pastels.  I do a lot of sanding and priming with clear shellac.  This method allows the painting to present itself to me.  I prefer not to title most of my images, leaving the viewer to see them without preconceptions."

But I didn't set out to write about her painting. I set out to write about how Carvin is an out and proud queer woman and she celebrates queer artists. She has made a great little short film called This is What QUEER looks like. It consists of lots and lots of queer folks - lesbians, gays, transgender, bi-sexual, genderqueer, the whole alphabet soup of queerness, saying, each in their own delightful way, "This is what queer (or lesbian, gay, etc.) looks like." The film played at the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and recently was screened at Capitol Theatre in Olympia. You can see the final theatrical version at or at FINAL THEATRICAL RELEASE VERSION : this* is what QUEER looks like. Full disclosure: I make a brief appearance in the film.

Carvin's latest project is posting bios and photos of queer artists on Facebook. She has created a Facebook group called queer artists + their art. Anyone can go to the group page for information or to join. In order to see the images, you need to join the group.

She uses a broad definition of artist to include visual and performing artists, writers, filmmakers. You'll find information on many artists you may have never heard of as well as many famous artists whom you may have never known were queer. Frida Kahlo, for instance, who was married to a man but loved to cross dress and had affairs with other women - most notably Josephine Baker, as depicted in the film Frida.

For other examples go to the group on FB and scroll down. You'll see choreographer Alvin Ailey, painters Frances Bacon and Jasper Johns, composer Steven Sondheim, singer Bessie Smith, actor Raymond Burr of "Perry Mason" fame, and many more along with some terrific photos.

Check out all the queer artists. It will be fun and educational.

LINK: Other Facebook pages to follow for updates on the arts