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Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
Lee Laa Ray Guillory.

Lee Laa Ray Guillory Awarded Queer|Art Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists

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

“Lee Laa Ray Guillory has shown exceptional insight into the interiority of Black mysticism and alternative photographic practices. Her profound methods will insert her into a contemporary visual history filled with heartfelt and inventive image-makers who are changing how we witness ourselves and each other,” said photographer Texas Isaiah, one of the grant’s judges.

Guillory’s practice investigates, through ritual-based photographs and performance, the transgenerational trauma to which Black femmes in rural Louisiana have been subjected. Her intimate photographs, carefully staged and lit, frequently focus on hair and hair maintenance, and depict femmes in emotional states ranging from that of quiet reflection to that of raw fury.

“Winning this grant will afford me the financial aid necessary to continue my photographic research which aims to interrogate both the spiritual intimacies of Black Southern Femme ecosystems and the ancestral veneration practices we often employ as a means of collective survival against white supremacist patriarchal capitalist regimes,” said Guillory. She noted that the award will fund her forthcoming work This Is My Boy Which Was Broken for You, which “pays homage to the fallen matriarchs of the Black Acadiana region by weaving personal diaries, family portraits, childhood illustrations, regional lore, and sacred text to illuminate rural Louisiana’s complex relationship to colorism and the sexual exploitation of black femme bodies.”

Guillory was selected from among a pool of applicants representing seventeen states. The jury also named four finalists: Boston-based photographer and poet Golden, Brookyln-based actor and director Yasha Lelonek,Bronx-based painter and illustrator Glori Tuitt, and Boston-based visual and performance artist Jhona Xaviera.