365 Days of Pride: 5 Incredible LGBTQIA+ Artists Speak

Pride Month ends soon, but let’s be real. Just because corporations put away their rainbow flags at the end of June doesn’t mean Pride is over until next year. Regardless of what month it is, the LGBTQIA+ community deserves representation and a platform to tell their stories. At Threadless, there are so many LGBTQIA+ artists who convey their life experiences and unique perspectives through their art. They add brilliant color to the intricate tapestry that is Threadless, and we’re proud to showcase their work year-round.

Let’s keep the Pride celebration going! We’d like you to meet five LGBTQIA+ artists who make art we think you’ll love. And don’t forget, you can help our artist community raise money for LGBTQIA+ charities around the world through Threadless Causes.

Sophie McTear invites you into the gender void.

You make art inspired by your LGBTQIA+ experience, emphasizing honest, vulnerable self-expression. Is there any design in your shop with a story you’d be willing to share?

Sophie McTear: Most of my designs are born in a bit of anxious energy. Art helps me to release that anxiety and turn it into something hopefully relatable. One of my favorite simple designs that I think looks great on a t-shirt is my “Gender Void” design. For a long time, I tried to define my gender. I still can’t exactly pin it down. I’m not quite sure what word describes me best: agender, nonbinary, genderqueer. I often feel like I have no gender and all genders at the same time. I like this design because it reminds me that you don’t really need to name everything. Sometimes you can just exist just the way you are, and I hope that other people can learn to recognize that too.

Sophie McTear Instagram post

Your design “Pride Started as a Riot” references the Stonewall riots of 1969, an event widely recognized as a turning point in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. In what ways can art help continue the pursuit of justice for the LGBTQIA+ community?

I think that it’s so important to recognize and honor our LGBTQIA+ elders and ancestors who have come before us, and for me, the easiest and clearest way to do that is through my artwork. I think that art has the power to invoke emotion in people and also spark curiosity for those who may not know about the history. For me, this piece is my way of honoring Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and the many other LGBTQIA+ activists who paved the way for the gay rights movement to turn into it what it’s become today. This month, I’m donating all of my proceeds from this particular design to the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, an organization made by and for Black transgender folks.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I currently have my largest solo exhibition yet at a local Tucson art gallery called &gallery  It runs until June 30. I know it’s a local show, but I’ll be sharing images from it on my Instagram throughout the month—and maybe some Arizonans will see this! Lots of new work focused on queer love and expression!

Alexandra Márquez creates a universe for intersectional identities.

What are some of the things that have fueled your passion for creating pastel dreamlands?

Alexandra Márquez: Every time I sit down to create art, I’m very passionate about creating a universe that feels diverse, empowering, and accepting. When I think of my illustrations, I think of them as pastel dreamlands, because to me, what I’m doing is building this sort of idyllic dimension. A safe space to explore and uplift all the different intersectional identities I’m connected to the most, and sharing them with the world not only to normalize them, but to show some of the representation I found so lacking in the media growing up. Subjects like mental health, queerness, and feminism are big themes across my art.

Alexandra Marqz Instagram Post

In what ways do you seek to empower the LGBTQIA+ community through your art?

For a long time, I found it really hard to understand who I was, and a big part of that was not seeing people who looked like me in the media I was exposed to. I love drawing people with different bodies, different skin colors, femmes, and nonbinary individuals who come together in scenes of pastel colors to love, empower, and celebrate each other. I share my art hoping people can see themselves in it and find a sense of community and identity; to encourage others to explore and challenge their perceptions of beauty, sexuality, and gender, and normalize the many ways in which we all interact and make emotional connections.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

You can follow me on Instagram to see more of my illustrations, works-in-progress, and a bit of the process behind the finished products. Also, look out for an update of my Threadless shop, I’ll be adding new art soon!

Ego Rodriguez makes the audience a part of the art.

In your Artist Shop bio, you mention that your art and technique were “chiseled from creative surroundings and a kinship towards artistic expression.” What are some of the influences or life experiences that have shaped you into the artist you are today?

Ego Rodriguez: Looking at interests and subjects that draw my attention today, I can see how movies, music, art, and people during my early years influenced my work. I’m reviewing my queerness with my work and realizing how many of these associations link with queer culture globally. You are gonna see ‘80s–’90s characters. Pop music, pop concepts. Twists on hetero-formatted configurations. My takes on pinup culture, nouveau poster girls, fairy tales, and greek myths. Pieces from the undercover gay imagery, like Playgirl or Bob Mizer’s work. Campness from classical horror movies and Fosse’s decadent world and music. But also more direct like the fashion world of Gaultier and Muglier. The boldness of Pierre and Gilles. The dream palettes of Bidgood and Fassbinder’s Querelle.

You leave room for interpretation in your art, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks and create their own story. Have you ever been moved or surprised by someone’s interpretation of your work? Do any specific pieces come to mind?

I find it obtrusive when artists try to explain to me their work. Creators dump their insides out as catharsis, as communication or reaching out. But the audience is part of whatever piece is on display. Their reaction, their affinity, their lack of interest. That connection is part of the whole work. That’s why I like to give that room for exploring and questioning.

[One piece that comes to mind is] the night series, where you see this guy affixed or exposed to blue light in different scenes. Either on his mobile, computer, TV, or the fridge. For me it was about showing these trivial minutes with a special spotlight. But the general response was deeper. Relating about hook-up app culture. Loneliness and social media. These are images that still create conversation every time I share them.

Ego Rodriguez

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

At the moment, I’m working on creating more pieces and imagery. How to bring it to other formats or elements of interest for my followers. I’m playing with animation, too.

I’m happy to see Threadless showing more LGBTQIA+ representation. A couple of years ago it wasn’t this visible, my selection was pretty bold from day one. I had my Pride collection and used garments like leggings on my male models. (That’s the next step: define unisex items further than the t-shirts.) I had my Pop Head collection promoted on different platforms by Threadless. Pure camp, scantily clad men, clashing colorful prints. It was fun to see people commenting that they were refreshing and interesting. I’ve been nothing but thankful for the support and help from day one. I know Threadless from back in 2003 when I tried to submit some art (unsuccessfully) and the evolution and growth is magical.

Jessica Amelia puts things she loves out in the world.

In addition to being a visual artist, you’re also a singer and musician in a band called The Obvious Tells. What made you gravitate toward the punk scene and how did it welcome you?

Jessica Amelia: With the pandemic, The Obvious Tells has turned into a bit of a solo project. I miss playing in bands and that raw feeling of jumping around and letting your heart out on stage. 

I’m not going to lie, as a queer person coming of age in the ‘90s, the punk scene wasn’t always the greatest place. We had our fair share of homophobes and transphobes, and I definitely felt apprehension. But in the end, they took my freak self in and raised me as my chosen family. In the last decade or two, though, it’s become (at least in my small town) an incredibly accepting place to be. Even before I was out, I was a freak. And these fellow freaks took me in.

Who are some of the punk-rock figures who influenced you the most? Who do you have in regular rotation?

Growing up, it was MDC. I was a closeted queer trans girl for so long. Hearing Dave Dictor sing “Rebel rebel / On the street / Makeup on my face, stockings on my feet / All the straights keep asking me why / I can’t be a normal American guy” hit me like a punch to the heart. The first representation I felt like I had—the first person that spoke to my experience.  After that of course, it was Riot Grrrl music, and then queer bands like Limpwrist.

I definitely came out listening to the Against Me! album Transgender Dysphoria Blues on repeat. Laura Jane Grace is one of my idols. Lately, The Worriers have been on repeat. While my experiences as a trans woman are different than Lauren Denitzio’s as a nonbinary person, the music totally speaks to me. Opening for them and meeting them was one of the highlights of my life.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I hope to have more designs soon! I’m definitely working on some things. If you check out my website, it has links to both my Threadless shop and all my musical endeavors! More music, more designs coming soon! Stay punk, stay queer!

Nataly Menjivar draws cute little faces on fruit.

Many designs in your shop feature what you call “fruit babies.” What are the origins of these cute little creatures and what do they represent?

Nataly Menjivar: Fruit babies originated from just some fruit doodles I had in my sketchbook. Everything’s obviously 10 times better with a cute lil face on it, and things just went from there. After I did my first series of citrus fruit illustrations/animations, MTV asked me to do a lil bumper, and I had to start thinking about what kind of world they lived in and what they were. I decided they aren’t fruit at all, they are little gnome-like creatures who just disguise themselves as fruits and flowers to walk among us because they worship the sun. They’re mischievous and sweet, and if I want them to represent something, I’d what them to represent a lil magic you could imagine in your everyday life.

Your “Pride Friends for Charity” design not only celebrates Pride, but also raises money for The Trevor Project through Threadless Causes. What made you choose The Trevor Project in particular?

I felt like the past year we’ve all had was super isolating (for obvious reasons). I felt helpless and anxious often, and I’d forget I wasn’t actually alone. During this time, I relied on a lot of my friends for help, to feel real, and to remember that I still had people a text away. I imagine not everyone is as lucky to have a community to reach out to, or feels understood in the middle of a very confusing time. The Trevor Project provides crisis and suicide prevention hotlines, as well as just a lot of consolidated information and resources about how to navigate being LGBTQIA+ and be an ally to your loved ones who are. In general, I think it’s important to uplift resources for LGBTQIA+ people, especially young people.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Something I’m looking forward to is planning a mid-summer collection for my shop. In honor of Pride Month, I also recently worked with actor Rickey Thompson on a video telling his story for Teen Vogue.

The designs feature at the beginning of this post are Jessica Amelia’s “Gay. In. Space,” Sophie McTear’s “Pride Started As A Riot,”  Nataly Menjivar’s “Pride Friends for Charity,” and Ego Rodriguez’s “At Sea.”

Rafael Velez

Copywriter at Threadless. Lover of thin-crust pizza, heavy metal, and B horror movies. Food source for a husky and two cats.