Persian LGBT+ art website Rangallery (a contraction of "gallery" and the Persian word for "color") hosted a special online exhibition on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, showcasing the work of artists and creatives from what in Iran is known as the "rainbow community".
The paintings, photos and conceptual arts collected on Rangaleri aim to draw public attention to the contemporary experience of being a gender or sexual minority in Iran and elsewhere.
Among those to be featured on Tuesday as both curators and creators were the Iranian artists known as Celine, Nasim Pezeshk, Farshad Khorshidi, Cardo, Saud, Raha Ghiasi, Yavar Khosroshahi and Nima Nia. Some of them have moved away in order to live openly.
Pezeshk, a 26-year-old law graduate with a focus on street photography and fine art with a focus on nudes, told IranWire about her goal was to "transform people, so they set aside boundaries and donot limit their minds. "Usually in my work, I allow the viewer to have a free interpretation of my work, which is unexpected and strange for many people."
Art, she believes, can have a greater - if subconscious - impact on people's behavior than words, "because something is not dictated to them or repeated over and over, but rather it stays in the mind's eye." He believes people in the LGBT+ community prefer this more oblique style of representation, as it does not leave them exposed to harassment.
Among the positive points of the website is that it bridges the gap between the LGBT+ communities inside and outside Iran, and foregrounds the importance of collective as well as individual storytelling. It also creates a safe space for members of the community to express themselves.
Celine, a 30-year-old transgender woman, is a painter, media educator and theater director. She came to art through her interest in digital painting.“As a child, because of the differences I had with others, I spent most of my time alone at home and daydreaming," she says of herself. "I was big on reading novels and watching movies. All this got me interested in art and pursuing it, against my family's wishes."
She completed her studies in radio, cinema and television in Turkey, but kept painting all the way through. Of taking part in the online exhibition, she said, "I think every artist takes every opportunity to show their work. In fact, by presenting our work together, we show the diversity of queer artists, contrary to the conventional view.
"These works can have an impact in different ways, too. They can be a reflection of the violence and discrimination we suffer, or our personal experience, the narration of our lives through art. Apart from this, a space has been created for queer artists to have the opportunity to present their work: something that rarely happens in the real world."
Unfortunately in Iran, most artists whose works differ from predetermined criteria do not have the space to display their creations, all the more so when they acknowledge same-sex relationships: a capital offence under Iranian law. These digital galleries are an important way for them to generate empathy and connections with the wider world.