“As I moved to San Francisco, I began a new series of paintings to celebrate LOVE. In a quest to explore beauty and compassion, I embark on painting lovers entangled in embrace to crystallize their warmth and affection. By the end of the first painting I became drawn to capturing the experience of couples caught in the gaps between race, gender and sexual identity, transgressing traditional norms of partnership and diversifying Western canons of what love looks like.” – Loyeva on her series, “The Standards”
How does your own queerness inform your series, “The Standards”?
I have short hair, sometimes I crossdress and my sexuality is fluid. Nevertheless, I’m not sure if this series is really about my own personal queerness. At this point, it’s easy for me to be queer because I don’t listen to people’s opinions of how I should live my life anymore. I think that has more to do with my experience as a political refugee that came to the US at the age of ten, rather than my current gender identity.
Although it was a different journey to get me here, the thing I care a lot about is tolerance. I care a lot people respecting one another.
Within the series, you painted pieces to highlight the intersectionality that can exist within relationships. Why is this important to you?
When I was a teenager, its was very difficult for me to readjust to a new culture and a new language as an immigrant fresh off the boat (plane), and so figuring out my gender and sexual identity as a human was extra hard. When I began to study art history I began to see that our contemporary political debates about identity are very much rooted in cultural representation. People feel divided partially because their visual culture is divided.
I spent my late teens and early 20’s studying and teaching Renaissance painting in Florence, Italy and London. That means that I spent A LOT of time looking at traditional European painting; it’s mostly full of beautiful white people doing Biblical things. It’s full of bucolic landscapes and stunning reclining female nudes painted by men for men. When I started asking myself how to paint as a woman making art to reflect what is interesting and important to me, I began to see how crucial it is for me to paint the marginalized point of view.
“The Standards” showcases same-sex lovers, and hetero lovers. Do you think queerness can exist within hetero partnerships?
Absolutely, why not? I think of queerness as an act of rebellion against the present state of affairs, against that voice in society that says: “You have to be this or that. To make it easy just be that thing that’s been assigned to you at birth.”
There are many people who are fluid in both their gender and sexual orientation. Sometimes those people find themselves dating a human that is, for whatever reason, of opposite gender. Cool beans.
You’ve stated in the past that this series is intended to transgress traditional norms of partnership, how are you doing this?
Most love stories that we are presented within popular culture are of beautiful, same sex, same race couples. When “the other” is not represented in culture they stay marginalized and feared. The idea for this series was simple: paint real life couples that are healthy, tender and kind to each other. Furthermore, I wanted to highlight my friends that happen to not be of the same sex, gender identity, race or ethnicity.
As a cultural producer, I see it as my responsibility to chip away at the status quo. Since we started seeing more people of color and more non-heteronormative relationships in Hollywood, we are becoming more comfortable with the marginalized other, less afraid. Fine art is another place that plays a crucial role in broadening our ideas of whose and what lifestyle choices are healthy.
Therefore, painting couples caught in the gaps between race, gender and sexual identity is an act of political activism for me.
What do you want viewers to gain from your work?
I want my work to be a part of the movement that challenges the status quo and breaks down what is “normal.” I want my viewers to be filled with hope that love can conquer fear. I want my viewers to look at my paintings and say, “Wow, that’s beautiful. Tenderness shared between humans is so delightful. And look! It’s still rad even when people aren’t of the same race or opposite gender.”
I want a new normal—one that is open minded, tolerant and inclusive.
In terms of the backgrounds within your work, and where subjects are placed, how do you use space?
The backgrounds of the lovers are about a celebration of color. My intention is to draw out a triumphant and jubilant mood through tonal harmonies. In this case, I’m thinking of color as a way of getting at the complexities of the fervor that is love.
How do you want to move forward with queerness in your work?
I think queerness is such an important movement of my generation, it’s about acceptance and self-expression. It’s not only a cultural, but also a political movement that is tangentially antithetical to tribalism. I believe in people’s right to be queer just like I believe in people’s right to eat grilled cheese sandwiches or worship the gods that speak to them.
My work about a lot of things. I describe it as “Renaissance style oil paintings of my contemporary zeitgeist.” Most importantly though, I am committed to painting people that represent the different corners of society in which I participate. America is the most culturally diverse country on earth, that means I have a lot of ground left to cover. I’m really excited about the queer movement, it’s really fun and I’m really glad that it’s gaining such momentum.
“Born in Odessa, Ukraine Inga Loyeva came to America as a political refugee in her early teens. Since then she has lived in Tampa Bay, Miami, Florence (Italy), London (UK), Cairo (Egypt) and now San Francisco. Loyeva’s work is a reflection of her personal experiences of being caught in the midst of various socio-political struggles such as the Arab Spring, The Ukrainian Revolution of 2014 and the Obama/Trump Administrations. For Loyeva, painting is a way of diving deeply into examinations of various constructions of realities, particularly the threads between propaganda and public imagination.”