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Big Gay Art Show honors LGBTQ artists By Carol Kahn -December 17, 2022



“Phoenix Rising” by Jim Berenholtz on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers


Sedona artist C.J. Henderson painted a black and white charcoal and acrylic mixed-media abstract self-portrait of a silhouetted nude body facing away from the viewer. Henderson describes art as therapy, helping him get through the difficult times in his life.


“That particular painting that I did, I did while I was coming to terms with my sexuality,” Henderson said. “I didn’t have any other people in the LGBTQ+ community around me and I felt very alone. That’s why the piece is titled ‘Alone.’ “I was using art to help with my pretty severe depression, and it helped me pull through some dark places. But in order to get through it, I had to put those dark images onto the canvas.”


“Alone” by CJ Henderson on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Carol Kahn/Larson Newspapers


“Alone” by CJ Henderson on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7. Carol Kahn/Larson Newspapers

Henderson said he is no longer in that space. “To this day, when I see this creation of mine, I am reminded of that darkness, that feeling of emptiness and now I am reminded that it can be overcome,” he said.


Henderson, along with artists from around the country took part in a juried art exhibit, the Big Gay Art Show, at the Sedona Art Center during Celebrate Sedona on Dec 7. The show runs through Friday, Dec. 23, and supports the LGBTQ+ community and its allies.


The Big Gay Art Show on display in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers


“It’s an important focus area,” Sedona Arts Center CEO Julie Richard said. “We’re trying to do things that are more diverse overall and highlight the diversity of the artists that live in Sedona and the country. It’s important to tell their stories, not just focus on what is necessarily specific genres, but things that have a little bit more meaning behind it.”


The event began as an effort to offer the LGBTQ+ community a voice in the local art scene. Since that first show in 2013, the Sedona Arts Center has welcomed hundreds of emerging and professional artists to Sedona to share their work.


“Every person we put in the show either had a very interesting story and/or work was just really cool,” Richard stated. “It was difficult to pick a favorite, since a lot of the work and the stories were compelling.”


In addition to the art exhibit, a holiday-themed drag performance took place featuring Las Vegas drag queens Carnie Asada, Phoenix Angel and Vypra G. Saxton. According to Richard, there were over 160 people who attended the show, and the performance went longer than expected.


Carnie Asada performs “All I Want For Christmas” during a holiday-themed drag show at the Sedona Arts Center as part of the Celebrate Sedona event on Wednesday, Dec. 7 (above). Vypra G Saxton performs to Lady Gaga (right). The performance coincided with the opening of the Big Gay Art Show on display at the Sedona Arts Center. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers


“It seemed that everyone had a great time,” Richard said.


The Big Gay Art Show provides a positive venue for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to show their work. In the past, the Sedona Arts Center hosted and promoted the event run by Sedona Pride, but has now taken on this event at the request of the organization.


A portion of the proceeds benefits Northland Cares, a health care clinic for people living with HIV and providing curative services for Hepatitis C. Northland has provided services from Cottonwood and Flagstaff clinics for over 20 years. Hedda Fay, community outreach manager of Northland Cares, said that this was the first time they partnered with SAC and helped arrange the performance with the drag show.


“This was our first time having any event at the Sedona Arts Center and we are proud to be a part of their program,” Fay said.


Artist Oli Boyer won first place for her overall body of work. On her Instagram, Boyer stated, “I’m so honored to be a part of the Big Gay Art show with the Sedona Arts Center. It means so much to be included into a show based around queer folk and our stories. I’m legitimately speechless. Being a part of a queer art show alone is amazing but receiving first place is insane. I would have never expected to get this award, but I’m so honored that I did.”


First place winner Oli Boyer’s piece “The Drowning of Ophelia” on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center

on Wednesday, Dec. 7. David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers


Boyer said that she spent so much of her life hiding her queer and trans identity.

“Being able to be out and proudly myself is something I never thought would happen,” Boyer said. “To be able to create work that expresses my identity and to show it to the world is absolutely incredible.”

“Thank you, Sedona Art Center, so much for having a place where queer artists can share their works without judgement,” Boyer added.


“Gemini” by Nora Pineda on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers


The second-place winner was a collaboration between Brenda Schweder and Max, and third place winner went to Joan Cox for her overall body of work. An honorable mention went to Brandon Dudley for his work “The Queen.”


“I’m 35 years old and just starting to break into the art world,” Dudley said. “I got a late start in this world, but I don’t necessarily regret that choice. I spent years in the performing arts as an actor and a drag queen. I was also a hairstylist and makeup artist, and even did a stint in retail. The only thing I do regret was how long it took me to share my art with others. How long I have been creating in secret and too afraid to show it off. I have learned that life is too short, and now is as good a time as any other.”

Additional honorable mentions were awarded to Kevin Eaton, Tom Hill, Stephen Honicki and Denise Katzen. Other artists included Henderson, Lisa Barnes, Lori Bauman, Rawley Chaves, Teresa Foster, Ashely Hamilton, Copious Harvey-Smith, Sarah Kahle, John Paradiso, Forest Svendgard-Lang and Henry Thomas.


Henderson said that he was filled with mixed emotions at having his work displayed for the world to see. “I was terrified, because this is the first time that I’ve ever put my [art out there] for anyone to judge,” he said. “I felt very vulnerable. Because the piece did have such a dark meaning and history in my life. But I was also proud because I felt like telling this story. Even if I don’t meet the person who viewed it and read the story, it might help someone else come to terms with themselves, whether they’re LGBTQ+ or going through a hard time. It might help them and give them some sort of hope.”


“Stained Glass Memories” by Ashley Hamilton on display during the Big Gay Art Show in the Art Barn at the Sedona Arts Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

David Jolkovski/Larson Newspapers

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