Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Samantha Nye Is Inspired by Rock Hudson Films and LGBTQ Elders

Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Samantha Nye Is Inspired by Rock Hudson Films and LGBTQ Elders

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves.

Samantha Nye, “Attractive People Doing Attractive Things in Attractive Places- Pool Party 1” (image courtesy the artist)

Age: 30 something-ish

Location: New York

Artistic Medium: Video and Painting

Who are you and what do you do?

My work envisions fantasy histories of age, race, and trans-inclusive lesbian spaces by reimagining “aspirational lifestyle imagery” from the 1960s. To make this work I’ve assembled a cast of women, ages 55-92, including my mother, grandmother, their life-long friends, and elders of the queer community. My work has two main points of reference: the musical films from the 1960s and photographs from the same era.

Both my paintings and videos are meant as love letters to queer spaces past and present, the thriving and the abandoned. In my attempt to image queer kinship I acknowledge the beautiful parts, the prickly parts, the radical parts, and the parts that have long needed fixing. With celebration and criticality, I pull references from lesbian legacies and failures.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

films from of the 1960s, Bat Mitzvah parties from 1990s, and the Miami gay club scene of the early 2000s.

Describe your coffee order.

I’m not cute with caffeine.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

When I was eight, I auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club. I choreographed a dance to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and sang it at full volume.

What constitutes a perfect day?

I spend the majority of my time in my studio, and I have a lot to say about a perfect studio day. But since it’s summer, I am daydreaming about walking through the city with my girlfriend, holding hands, seeing shows, seeing something truly surprising — beautiful, sexy, subversive, tacky, gross, exciting, or bad — and then having drinks with friends to talk it through. A truly perfect day includes Van Leeuwen (vegan) ice cream and ends at a queer dance night.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

at the Warhol Museum.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

Time travel.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I got a callback [for the Mickey Mouse Club].

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

I would love to be asked, “why?” Why is it important to queer the aesthetics of aspiration and leisure? And why is it important for elder cis and trans woman to occupy this fantasy?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

Capitalism.

What did you make when you first started making art?

In high school, I made “goddess” paintings and sculptures. I cringe remembering that a friend got one tattooed on her arm. I still feel bad about it and wonder if that is why we don’t talk anymore.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

S-P-I-L-L-I-N-G.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

“” by Hieronymus Bosch

What are your plans for pride month?

My calendar is looking so queer, cute, and full with openings, performances, and lectures by queer people this month. This weekend was . There was also “” choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly at the Invisible Dog. Peter Clough’s solo show Head opens at haul gallery on June 15. The musician  (admittedly, my girlfriend) is giving a performance-lecture about music, purpose, the queer body, AIDS activism, climate crisis, and video art at the in DC. There’s also , the Queer Galaxies Show (which I’m in) at . I might skip the actual Pride March but will try to get to the Dyke March and hopefully something at (an advocacy group for Queer Elders). 

What is the future of queerness?

Complicated and exciting! I fear a loss of our subversive, loving, critical, expansive, creative, perverted, sexy, NSFW status. I worry about the ways queerness is becoming so mainstream, agreeable, and fashionable within the “marketplace.” However, I will exchange these things for more safety, security, and ability for the queer community to thrive. I recently overheard a group of doctors having an affirming conversation about gender identity and patients and saw a glimpse into a safer future.

Back in my day…

18-year-olds took their subpar fake IDs and snuck into drag bars. Learning from your queer elders or drag queens/kings was a social experience. It required showing up and presence. I LOVE watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, but I’m nostalgic for community over screens.

Name one guilty pleasure.

Omg thank you, I will! That show Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry on E!

Greatest queer icon of the internet: , , or a pervading sense of existential angst?

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

Living in New York City places me in the heart of support for queer artists. The very night I moved to New York in 2013 I learned about the incredible program and became a fellow the following year. Having previously lived in Miami and Boston I can attest to the vast difference in resources this city has to offer; however, in the words of queer icon Luther Vandross, it’s “ never too much.”

How do you stay cool during the summer?

New York City’s public pools. Short shorts. Taking the ferry instead of the train. The Ocean.

What is your favorite type of milk?

I hear that my answer might be oat — once I actually try it.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series,