Visual artist Lee Laa Ray Guillory wins Queer|Art’s Illuminations Grant

Visual artist Lee Laa Ray Guillory wins Queer|Art’s Illuminations Grant
Lee Laa Ray Guillory.

New Orleans-based interdisciplinary artist Lee Laa Ray Guillory was named the winner of the second annual Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists, the nonprofit Queer|Art announced Tuesday. The award — which includes a $10,000 cash prize, along with professional and creative support over the course of a year — aims to provide resources and recognition for self-identifying Black trans women and trans femme artists working in the United States.

A finalist for last year’s award, Guillory investigates intersectional identity through her photographic work, with an artistic practice rooted in ritual.

“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,” Guillory said in the announcement.

"Adella's Reflection," 2020. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
“Adella’s Reflection,” 2020. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.

The interdisciplinary artist and independent curator was chosen by a panel of judges that include Connie (Girl) Fleming, Lyle Ashton Harris and Texas Isaiah. As part of the grant, Guillory will receive individual studio visits from the judges, who selected the artist from a group of 43 applicants representing 17 states across the country.

“Lee Laa Ray Guillory has shown exceptional insight into the interiority of Black mysticism and alternative photographic practices,” Isaiah said. “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.”

"Daughters of Yemaya," 2019. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
“Daughters of Yemaya,” 2019. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
"The Night Before the Hurricane." Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
“The Night Before the Hurricane.” Lee Laa Ray Guillory.

The artist stated in the announcement that she plans to use the award to complete the image- and text-based project “This Is My Body Which Was Broken For You,” a multimedia work that “channels the voices of [her] late maternal grandmother and the femmes of [her] matrilineal bloodline.”

“This book 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 stated.

"First Initiation," 2018. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.
“First Initiation,” 2018. Lee Laa Ray Guillory.

Queer|Art also named the artists Golden, Yasha Lelonek, Glori Tuitt and Jhona Xaviera as finalists for this year’s award. Each of the finalists will receive a $1,250 award.

More information about the Illuminations Grant, developed and named in partnership with Mariette Pathy Allen, Aaryn Lang and Serena Jara, can be found on the Queer|Art website.

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Top Image: Lee Laa Ray Guillory.