LGBTQIA+ pathfinders inspired others to follow their dreams.
By Asia Andrews
Queer elders have influenced the lives of LGBTQIA+ people and made the community more visible today, an award-winning writer and artist said Oct. 28 in the Victory Center.
Anel Flores, a visual artist from South Texas, has an upcoming project called “Queerstories from the Borderlands” where she honors the achievements of elders who created a path for her and other in the LGBTQIA+ community along the Mexican border.
They are Dr. Norma Cantu, a professor at Trinity University; Maria Salazar, an attorney; Gloria Ramirez and Graciela Sanchez of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center; Martha Prentiss, a jeweler; Gertrude Baker, an actor at Jump-Start Performance Company; Gloria Anzaldúa, a writer; and others.
“I want to tell those stories of these great elders that do this work for all of us,” Flores said.
Without these queer elders, people wouldn’t have “these badass women breaking boundaries and giving these opportunities” for queer people to have different options in life than what would have been expected of them, she said.
“We can’t do this stuff without each other,” Flores told about 25 people in celebration of LGBTQIA+ History Month.
“And that’s what dismantling the institution is about, changing the way we raise money and how we support each other and making sure we invite each other and reach out to one another,” she said.
When Flores was 17, she was forcefully outed after being caught kissing her girlfriend, she said.
This led to her being kicked out of her home by her mother and began her need to tell stories or she thought she would suffocate, she said.
When she was older, her parents finally acknowledged her as a successful artist.
Flores drew upon her experiences growing up outside of her “safe space” to create and inspire her works of art.
Her goal when working is to have other LGBTQIA+ people be able to recognize themselves in paintings, which gives them the validation they need to be themselves, she said.
Her paintings are “always looking at gender and identity, queerness spaces and imagery, and providing the viewer an opportunity to see themselves,” Flores said.
Ometeotl, the Aztec god of duality and gender non-binary spaces, was the inspiration behind her painting “Ometeotl, Gender Travel,” to represent the separation between “the puppet strings” controlling the head from the body.
“I always am trying to challenge the viewer and stop them from only seeing what they think they need to see,” Flores said.
In her painting “La Curandera,” the subject is commonly mistaken for a man.
“I always have to challenge my viewer to say look at this person. Don’t gender them immediately,” Flores said. “Who is this person … Don’t only look at gender.”
“Empanada: A Lesbian Story en Probaditas,” her newest book about how she looks back on her life and tries to understand certain aspects of herself, has been adapted into a play.
Her graphic artwork, “Pintada De Rojo” meaning “painted red,” and “Rooted: A Queer Women of Color Anthology” a collection of art and inspiring works, depict how Flores was sexually abused as a child, something that she wasn’t comfortable talking about until a few years ago.
Both pieces show how she has been able to overcome the obstacles in her life through help from the community and how this has affected her as a person.
“You have a rich community, and part of this program, part of my work as an artist is acknowledging that I’m an artist,” Flores said. “It’s important for me to be here as an author and an artist, but I can’t be here without Qween Paz and without Alyson Alonzo.”
Professional singers Alonzo and Natalia Glenn, also known as Qween Paz, performed original songs from their albums during the event.
Alonzo’s music is scheduled to be released in late December.
Glenn performed “The Glow,” “Don’t Rush,” “Tres Notas,” “Sticky Hoe,” “Stunt On ‘3m,” “Hold On Up,” “Cry Appointment (Interlude)” and “Morning Work,” that are available online at qweenpaz.bandcamp.com.
For more information about Flores or to view her artwork, visit https://anelflores.com.