Curated by Em Maloney
Featuring visual artwork by Olivia Butkiewicz and Grace Perkins
Poetry by Kieran DeMelfi and Nik Angel Moreno
June is Pride Month, which for many LGBTQ people is a time of celebration of queer identity and resilience. This year is especially significant with it being the historic 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The riots and subsequent protests that followed at the Stonewall Inn in New York City played a pivotal role in the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement in the US.
Despite capitalist appropriation, the queer rights movement has gradually become more accessible and inclusive over the past 50 years thanks to the efforts of activists like Sylvia Rivera and Annie Segarra and artists like Andy Warhol and Favianna Rodriguez.
Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Queer NEPA has been working tirelessly to build a community that uplifts local queer voices and that serves the poor and people experiencing homelessness. Among these efforts, we have sought to highlight LGBTQ artists out of the belief that art can create social and political change, as well as provide an outlet for self-expression.
For the second year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Anthracite Unite to do a feature post for Pride Month (read last year’s: Queens, Divas, & Pioneers). This year, we’ll be showcasing the work of some of Queer NEPA’s artists and poets, including Olivia Butkiewicz, Grace Perkins, Kieran DeMelfi, and Nik Angel Moreno.
Each of these artists exemplifies the talent and remarkable capabilities that NEPA has to offer. I encourage y’all to support these and other local artists however you can by buying their art or simply following them on social media!
– Em Maloney
broken glass body by Kieran DeMelfi mirror, show me bone. show me the axis where wide thigh meets firm ass. show me underneath, soup-ladle concavity, precious small porcelain feet. show me hourglass, corset-tummy, push-up breasts, no puncture wounds called nipples. show me slender teaspoon hands, bracelet wrists, chicken-bone, manhandled bicep, show me canyon shoulders, curlicue spine, fatty cheeks pinched inward. mirror, show me voice: lilting, birdsong, violinstring voice. mirror, show me body. pretty body, elsewhere body, ghostly pale and purpling, mirror, show me a lie: woman written in lipstick-red. shatter me into something real.
The Femme Who Never Was by Nik Angel Moreno He was the femme who lived in sandcastles in the sky. So unabashed and bold. He was the smell of palo santo cleansing the air. A legend, they said, he was the “Femme who never was.” You’re the femme that became glued to stoops and threw chisme like a game of dice, yes, but you are the girl who weeps, who’s heart is broken, but doesn’t know that aloe is pouring out of that heart of yours to heal you both. Go and find him! Grab those lashes from the drawer, paint his eyes like the sunrises you never got to see together. Bring him to see the day he was born all blood and guts intact. He was the fire from a dragon’s belly; born to blow fire on anyone who’d dare get in his way! The night you saw his silhouette on the balcony overlooking the gulf coast, that’s when you knew he was meant to be you? That those mirror pumps, all shattered just like you, were meant to fit your feet. These weren’t just daydreams. This is real; you are real. Put the lipstick on you both, girl. Match each other like you were meant to. Stand tall, even when your skyscrapers crumble. Keep building your sandcastles, boy, keep her close to your chest. Blanket her in sage and lavender. You were the best thing an autumn-like breeze brought. You are the ancestors creeping out of the water with the tide, crashing on the shores to wash over her. Stay, boy, you don’t have to wash her all away.
Don’t Let the Ink Dry by Nik Angel Moreno It’s not that I don’t love you, Baby, I do. But that’s where things get scary because love is a very big feeling. Bigger than a rural night sky some days. What do I do with all this sky when my heart is overflowing? I write. And that’s even scarier, because ink is permanent, you know? And love – well it isn’t. And what happens after my pen has touched these pages? That’s a whole other kind of unknown…
Southern Smoke Traces by Nik Angel Moreno i. No more tears, baby I just want lust dripping down your collar bones. No more fears, baby Only our bodies Stamping their shapes into your sheets. No more worries, baby. But no rush, no hurry. This is our homecoming A funeral for our ending. ii. Being Brown and Gay in the South is to baptize your love in an ocean of murky waters. Who is shark? Who is dolphin? Do you own this love, or do you fake it? iii. No more tears, baby. Don’t let them see last night’s lust falling from our collar bones. I hope it’s only fears, baby. I pray they can’t see the shapes our bodies stamped into your sheets. Maybe it’s just our worries, baby. There’s so much rush, so much hurry. Down here it’s too much risk for a gift to feel so small. How I wished this could be our homecoming But it’s the funeral of our beginning.
If you’d like to get involved in Queer NEPA, just reach out to us. We have an Arts Committee you can join, and lots of other ways you can volunteer!
We also have a number of events coming up, as part of our 2nd Annual Pride Series, including a Peace Meal in Hazleton (June 15th), Queer Coffee Klatch in Scranton (June 20th), Interfaith Pride Service in Scranton (June 28th), Rally for Queer Liberation in Wilkes-Barre (June 29th), and a Pride Party in Wilkes-Barre (June 29th).
LGBTQ and allies alike are welcome at all of our events, because only when we work together in solidarity can we dismantle the systems of oppression and achieve justice. The fight for change takes everyone, not just the activists, but the artists, academics, and average folk.
About the Artists and Curator:
Grace Allison Perkins is an Illustrator and Comic artist originally from central Texas. In 2011, she started character writing and it really motivated her to have her art revolve around visual narrative building. She is passionate about creating work with subjects related to positive representations of romance and sexuality, as well as critiquing constructs of gender and race. Grace’s goal is to create work for people to engage with who don’t often see themselves in most media. In 2016, she earned her BFA in Illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. She has been trying to balance drawing, painting, and her goal of finishing a romance series ever since then.
Nik Moreno is a 26-year-old Transgender, Chicano, writer, poet and fiber artist. He writes with a major focus on disability, mental health, and his Mexican American, Indigenous heritage. His writing has been featured in publications such as Latina Magazine, Wear Your Voice Mag, The Body is not an Apology, and others. He’s self-published his very own chapbook: Liberacíon (2016), as well as over a dozen zines such as Why Disabled People Are Magic, Curandero Diaries, From One Addict to Another and more!
Olivia Butkiewicz is a traditional illustrator, forward-thinking LGBTQA+ feminist, and aspiring sequential artist. Her art revolves around personal experiences while using multiple mediums to convey emotions to her viewers. Olivia believes in breaking boundaries and art allows her voice to be heard near and far. Olivia’s style of art varies from piece to piece. However, as of lately she’s stuck with watercolor, ink, markers, and pencil. She has a drip style to help with the flow of colors used to give depth but contrasts it with bold pen lines for the added definition of character.
Em Maloney (They/They Pronouns) is a queer, transgender Muslim activist. They are the founder of Queer NEPA and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Based out of the Wyoming Valley, they have a passion for advocating nonviolence, social justice, and sex positivity. They also have a love for all things art, including tattoos, henna, and surrealist & abstract paintings. Em Maloney earned a BA in Communication Arts & Humanities from Keystone College.