Viewing religion through the lens of a queer artist
I grew up a Christian. The baptist church proved to be toxic and harmful to my wellbeing. The, I attended an episcopal church where I loved the environment, ritual and aesthetics of ‘high church’, but did not like the politics that followed and divided the church. In my undergrad at Middle Tennessee State University, I moved away from associating with church in relation to Christianity. I became more fluent in topics and ideas associated with Christian mysticism, Kabbalah, and the teachings of Rumi. Through these teachings and ideas, I have allowed myself to tap into what I feel is the true message of a higher power. In doing so, I tap into healing mantras and meditations that help me connect to an untainted ‘Christianity’ or what it means to be Christ-like, accessing the proactive and healing messages of what I feel Christianity is to truly be. I see it as being spiritual, not wanting to be associated with modern day evangelical teachings. The ongoing goal is to find my way to core ideas of the self and higher powers, allowing messages and teachings from other religions and philosophies to evolve and expand my understanding. I am allowing myself to heal and grow.
My work encompasses an array of mediums while merging practices in music and video to curate a coexistent space pushing spiritual and queer ideas in both classical and contemporary mediums. I engage in theatrical approaches that incorporate expanded media. I instigate bodies of work that present an embrace to those of a queer narrative and affiliation. Through complex and transparent avenues, working in an interdisciplinary fashion offers meaningful parallels of transformation and fluidity, themes that are crucial to my practice
In the age of political, social, self, and spiritual awareness, communities outside of the heteronormative, binary way of life, are pushing to be present, and to have a valid voice in the polarizing climate. Being queer means to be present and live our lives as political beings by nature. It is a push against the exclusion of generations before us of what has been toxically instilled, breaking away from harmful mindsets and teachings.
Just as my work touches on the classical and modern avenues of art theology, I am influenced by a chimera of aesthetics and artists within the same umbrella of thinking. My style of composition comes from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau movements. Taking modern inspiration from the 80’s, 90’s and Y2K consumer internet culture, my work welds concepts and aesthetics together in a Giger-esque manner.
“Queer people living in a heterosexist society often fall into the trap of feeling like we have to choose between our sexuality and our spirituality. The two are integrally related as expressions of who we are as ‘body selves’ in the world.” ~ Rev. Mona West Ph.D.
Reverend Mona West is correct when she says that it feels like we always have to choose between the two, and now three with gender in LGBTQ+ community under a reformation and expansion in correlation to religion and spirituality. While being present in this upheaval and turbulence of the toxic, learned behaviors and mentalities, we have to heal, we must allow ourselves to find peace. In the modern sense of the queer community, spirituality is either embraced, ran from, or acknowledged but not entertained. Within my practice, I focus on what spirituality could look like from a queer lens. My intent is to transcend the boundaries of the queer community, communicate to those on the outside and invite reconciliation. Pain, bigotry, disenfranchisement, and trauma – when we look them in the eyes, we address the obstacles and start to heal. We allow ourselves to heal and not be dictated by the past in order to grow from what was, and what is inherently good before the tainting of man.
Recommended: Read this short story about two queer women during the bubonic plague outbreak in colonial India here.
KAELIN is an interdisciplinary artist born in 1996 in Chattanooga, TN. They moved to Murfreesboro in 2014 to receive their BFA in Studio Art. There they concentrated in printmaking and painting, maturing in their craft to fit their mixed media style of artwork. After graduating, they decided to dive into performance based work, combining video instillation, music, and theatre into their practice. They have shown their work in Nashville and Murfreesboro locations, being Cummins Station, East Nashville’s Main Street Gallery, and Murfreesboro’s Murfree Gallery. They premiered their performance work at Adverse Fest 2020, a queer arts festival based out of Athens, GA that encourages and celebrates diversity. Outside of galleries and performance venues, Kaelin has been published in international and National Journals such as, Freidericksburg Literary Review Magazine, Sink Hollow Journal, and the Santa Ana Review magazine. They are working on creating an interactive experience, to give diverse crowds a feel for their art. Their new work pushes their content into synesthetic, hypnagogic platforms while allowing their more traditional art to breathe, attempting to merge the gap between both gallery and performance venues. They are currently enrolled at Illinois State University, where they are receiving their Masters in Fine Arts in printmaking, exploring new and old territories. You can reach them on Insta at @studio_kaelin