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Identity

6 beautiful drawings by LGBTQ inmates that illustrate life in prison

Their artwork shows their strength, resilience, and talent.

"Acceptance" by Stevie S.


Tatiana von Furstenberg laid out more than 4,000 works of art on the floor of her apartment and was immediately struck by what she saw.

The pieces of artwork were submitted from various prisons across the country in hopes of being featured in "On the Inside," an exhibition of artwork by currently incarcerated LGBTQ inmates, curated by von Furstenberg and Black and Pink, a nonprofit organization that supports the LGBTQ community behind bars. The exhibit was held at the Abrons Arts Center in Manhattan toward the end of 2016.

"I put all the submissions on the floor and I saw that there were all these loving ones, these signs of affection, all of these two-spirit expressions of gender identity, and fairies and mermaids," von Furstenberg said.


She noticed the recurring topics throughout the works of different artists — eye contact, desire, fighting back, alienation, and longing — and these shared struggles became the themes of the art exhibition.

"These artists feel really forgotten. They really did not think that anybody cared for them. And so for them to have a show in New York and to hear what the responses have been is huge, it's very uplifting," she said.

Plenty of people turn to art as a means of escape. But for the artists involved in On the Inside, the act of making art also put them at risk.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are incarcerated at twice the rate of heterosexuals, and trans people are three times as likely to end up behind bars than cisgender people. During incarceration, they're also much more vulnerable than non-LGBTQ inmates to violence, sexual assault, and unusual punishments such as solitary confinement.

Not every prison makes art supplies readily available, either, which means that some of the artists who submitted to "On the Inside" had to find ways to make their work from contraband materials, such as envelopes and ink tubes. And of course, by drawing provocative images about their identities, they also risked being outed and threatened by other inmates around them.

But sometimes, the act of self-expression is worth that risk. Here are some of the remarkable examples of that from the exhibition.

(Content warning: some of the images include nudity.)

1."A Self Portrait" by B. Tony.

inmates, jail, sketching

“A Self Portrait” by B. Tony

2. "Rihanna" by Gabriel S.

relationships, identity, rehabilitation

“Rihanna” by Gabriel S.

"Rihanna is who I got the most pictures of," von Furstenburg said. "I think it's because she is relatable in both her strength and her vulnerability. She's real.”

3. "Acceptance" by Stevie S.

body art, tattoo, mental health

"Acceptance" by Stevie S.

"This series is sexy and loving and domestic," von Furstenberg said about these two portraits by Stevie S. "A different look at family values/family portrait.”

4. "Michael Jackson" by Jeremy M.

celebrity, art, paintings

“Michael Jackson” by Jeremy M.

assets.rebelmouse.io

This was another one of von Furstenberg's favorites, because of the way it depicts a struggle with identity. "[MJ] was different, he was such a unique being that struggled so much with his identity and his body image the way a lot of our artists, especially our trans artists, are struggling behind bars," she said.

5. "Unknown" by Tiffany W.

pixies, fairie, fantasy

“Unknown” by Tiffany W.

6. "Genotype" and "Life Study," by J.S.

anatomy, Michaelangelo, nudes

“Genotype” and “Life Study” by J.S.

"This is the Michelangelo of the group," von Furstenberg said. "To be able to draw this with pencil and basic prison lighting is astounding. One of the best drawings I've ever seen in my life.”

When the exhibition opened to the public on Nov. 4, 2016, visitors even had the chance to share their thoughts with the artists.

The exhibit included an interactive feature that allowed people to text their comments and responses to the artist, which von Furstenberg then converted to physical paper and mailed to inmates.

Some of the messages included:

"I have had many long looks in the mirror like in your piece the beauty within us. I'm glad you can see your beautiful self smiling out. I see her too. Thank you."
"I am so wowed by your talent. You used paper, kool aid and an inhaler to draw a masterpiece. I feel lucky to have been able to see your work, and I know that other New Yorkers will feel the same. Keep creating."
"I've dreamed the same dreams. The barriers in your way are wrong. We will tear them down some day. Stay strong Dear."

Many people were also surprised at how good the artwork was — but they shouldn't have been.

Just because someone's spent time in prison doesn't mean they can't be a good person — or a talented artist. They're also being compensated for their artwork. While business transactions with incarcerated people are technically illegal, $50 donations have been made to each artist's commissary accounts to help them purchase food and other supplies.

"We're led to believe that people behind bars are dangerous, that we're safer without them, but it's not true," von Furstenberg said. "The fact that anybody would assume that [the art] would be anything less than phenomenal shows that there's this hierarchy: The artist is up on this pedestal, and other people marginalized people are looked down upon.”

Art has always been about connecting people. And for these incarcerated LGBTQ artists, that human connection is more important than ever.

Perhaps the only thing harder than being in prison is trying to integrate back into society — something that most LGBTQ people struggle with anyway. These are people who have already had difficulty expressing who they are on the inside and who are now hidden away from the world behind walls.

On the Inside's art show provided them a unique opportunity to have their voices heard — and hopefully, their individual messages are loud enough to resonate when they're on the outside too.


This article originally appeared on 11.14.16

Woman holds new signs walking in New York causing laughter

There's the old cliché, desperate times call for desperate measures and one woman decided it was time to pull out all the stops. Well, sort of. Karolina Geits was annoyed with dating sites when she and her friends came up with the joke of walking around New York City with a sign that reads, "looking for a husband."

The sign isn't something fancy that they printed up at Office Depot or something. It's just a piece of cardboard with black sharpie writing. Geits, who is a model, debuted the sign in July, racking up more than 6.4 million views on TikTok. Since striking virility, she's taken to filming herself with some pretty eyebrow raising signs.

People walking along the streets seem to be a mixture of confused and amused by these silly signs, which sometimes actually result in money. One of her signs, "need money for a Birkin" had onlookers giggling and some folks forgetting they were in New York traffic while craning their necks to...read her sign. I'm sure.


In one video Geits is sitting on a park bench surrounded by balloons designed to look like dogs. While actual dogs stop to sniff the curious pets she's holding the leash to, the model holds up a sign that reads, "these are the only pets I can afford." She doesn't stop at just sitting on the bench with her inflatable best friends, she takes them out into the park for a walk while people look at her confused.

Geits, has a sign looking for a sugar daddy, asking strangers to marry her, and declaring that she is in fact fashion. One of her most recent strolls through New York City looking for a husband garnered more than 11 million views. By the end of that video, some lucky guy swooped her off her feet. Pretty sure they're married now and she's just looking for a spare. They seemed pretty happy together after meeting .3 seconds beforehand.

Commenters can't believe her results.

"If this is the result then I just might try it," one woman writes.

"You know what... This might just work lol," another says.

"At this point I need to do the same thing. Lol," someone comments.

"You know what... let me go get me some art supplies lmao," one person writes.

Well, it does seem to be effective in gaining the attention of attractive men, even the ones clearly sitting with their partners. There were quite a few women gripping their partner's arm and giving them death stares. It's all in good fun, but check out those reactions below.

Adam Sandler on "Blended" Red Carpet in Berlin.

When comedian Chris Farley was found dead from an overdose on December 18, 1997, he left behind an impressive body of work for someone so young. Farley was a breakout hit on “Saturday Night Live” from 1990 to 1995 and would go on to star in the comedies “Tommy Boy,” “Black Sheep” and “Beverly Hills Ninja.”

Farley was beloved by his fellow cast members on SNL in the mid-’90s, many of whom went onto superstardom. including Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Mike Myers.

Even though Farley has been gone for 25 years, Sandler still hasn’t gotten over the loss, and on the latest episode of the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast, he admitted that he still gets choked up when talking about him on stage. Sandler has been playing the “Chris Farley Song,” a tribute to his late friend, during his one-man show since 2019.

He played an emotional version of the song in 2019 when he returned to SNL to host after being fired from the show 24 years earlier.



Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics to “Chris Farley Song” by Adam Sandler:

On a Saturday night my man would always deliver

Whether he was the bumblebee girl

Or living in a van down by the river

He loved the Bears and he could dance

That Chippendales with Swayze

When they replaced his coffee with Folgers

He went full-on crazy

The sexiest gap girl

Without him, there'd be no lunch lady

In lunch lady land

Oh, I'm thinking about

I'm thinking about my boy

Chris Farley

“The first few times we played that song, I would tear up and I couldn’t really sing it well because I’d get so emotional and then I felt it and was able to get it out there," Sandler told "Happy Sad Confused" host Josh Horowitz. “It’s weird, but when that song starts, I go, ‘Oh f--k, alright, don’t cry and don’t do that’ still. I’ve sang it maybe a hundred times already, but it rocks me.”

He misses him deeply because he knows him as much more than a performer.

“I think it’s because we show a video of Chris and I see his face,” he said, referring to a montage that plays behind Sandler as he sings. “And I remember his dad and I’m friends with his brothers and his mom and everybody and they still miss him a lot. So yeah, it gets me.”

It’s hard for Sandler to talk about Farley but it’s wonderful to hear how much he is still loved.

"I love hearing the crowd go nuts for Farley,” he said, adding, “Every show I do, by far the biggest applause of the night is talking about Farley and any time I mention his name, the audience goes nuts. It feels great.”

Sandler said that when he and his friend David Spade, who was also Farley’s comedic partner, went on tour together, he had a hard time hearing the song. “He’s like ‘Man, sometimes I can’t listen, I gotta walk away because I get so upset,’” Sandler said of Spade. “We loved him. We loved him so much … He was as cool as it gets.”

Farley’s life ended in tragedy, but his memory lives on through his work and friends like Sandler and Spade, who keep his memory alive. It’s a testament to the love that these friends had for Farley that his memory still brings up such strong emotions. It’s a testament to his talent that audiences are still overjoyed when they hear his name.


Amy Schumer at New York fashion week, 2016.

Comedian Amy Schumer hosted “Saturday Night Live” on Saturday, November 5 and her monologue hit on the midterm elections and her family. It was funny as expected but also shed light on what it’s like living with someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Schumer’s husband, restaurateur and chef Chris Fischer, was diagnosed with ASD as an adult, shortly after the couple were married in 2018.

In her monologue, she used humor to dispel some of the stereotypes surrounding ASD, noting that many still think people with the disorder are like Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man.”

However, ASD presents in many different ways.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, does he love to count? Should we drop a bunch of straws on the floor and he can gather them and count them?’” she joked, making fun of the question. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, that sounds pretty fun. I would like to do that.’”


She added that her husband isn’t great with compliments. “He tells me I look 'comfortable' a lot. We have different love languages,” she admitted. Romance with someone on the spectrum can be a little different as well.

“A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting outside. It was a nice night. It looked like it was going to rain, and I was feeling kind of sentimental, and I was like, ‘You know, even though these past couple of years with the pandemic and everything has been so stressful, still this time being with you, being with our son, they’ve been the best years of my life.’

“And he just looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to go put the windows up in the car,’” she joked. “Yeah, that’s my guy. It’s one of the times we play the game: autism or just a man?’”

When someone of Schumer's profile demonstrates she can be in a loving relationship with someone on the spectrum, it does a wonderful job of destigmatizing the disorder. Also, demonstrating that her husband has some unique ways of showing his affection helps everyone better understand how the disorder manifests in some people.

What’s even more admirable is that Schumer’s work to destigmatize ASD isn’t just for laughs, she has a purpose. During a March 2019 appearance on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” she touted the benefits of getting an ASD diagnosis.

"The tools we’ve been given have made his life so much better and our marriage and our life much more manageable,” the “Trainwreck” actress said, according to Today. “I just wanted to encourage people to not be afraid of that stigma.”

Getting a diagnosis is important because it opens a world of possibilities for those with ASD and the people who love them. After someone has a diagnosis, they can get the correct therapies and learn the best strategies to improve their relationships.

Schumer can joke about her husband’s unique approach to romance because she understands his condition. It’d be a lot less funny if she was in the dark and attributed his reactions to simply a lack of empathy, which may not be the case at all.