News Register for our weekly news digest here.

Keijaun Thomas, I Looked Up at the Sky and I, Imagined All of the Stars Were My Sisters, 2020. Photo: Charles Rice.
Keijaun Thomas, I Looked Up at the Sky and I, Imagined All of the Stars Were My Sisters, 2020. Photo: Charles Rice.

Keijaun Thomas Awarded Queer|Art’s First Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists

New York–based nonprofit Queer|Art has announced Keijaun Thomas as the recipient of its inaugural Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists. Thomas, who lives and works in New York, will receive a $10,000 cash grant as well as support from members of the judges’ panel, who will make individual visits to her studio. The award, the first of its kind, is aimed at correcting the exclusion of Black trans women artists from the larger art canon while opening a path for others.

Thomas, a multidisciplinary artist, was selected from among seventeen applicants from across the country by a panel comprising artists Juliana Huxtable, Kiyan Williams, and Texas Isaiah, and Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Thomas’s practice, which includes performance, multimedia installation, and poetry, reflects on collective ancestral memory while centering on Black healing with the aim of disrupting monolithic representations of Blackness. Sometimes rendering painful histories of Black enslavement, Thomas asks the viewer to consider notions of visibility as they pertain to representations of Black bodies and labor.

“Thomas’s body of work situates her within a recent history of transformative artists employing performance to investigate and disassemble notions of Black identity,” said Golden in a statement. “Through image-making, movement, writing, and multimedia installation, Keijaun reimagines and rebuilds collective history and memory, foregrounding Black humanity and creating space where culture and community can transcend the very frameworks her practice deconstructs.”

“This has been the foundation for my work, aiming to keep black trans women/femmes protected, to keep us afloat and living in our truth. This grant will allow me to focus my energy on making my new body of work, Can You Do Me a Favor?,” noted Thomas in her statement. “Thank you all very much,” she concluded, adding, “WE ARE HERE!”

The panel additionally recognized four finalists: Bronx painter and illustrator Glori Tuitt, Boston-based photographer/poet Golden, Los Angeles multidisciplinarian Jordiana, and New Orleans curator and interdisciplinary art Lee Laa Ray Guillory.