Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Yolande Armstrong Started Painting After 40 Years

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. Click here to participate.

Yolande Armstrong, “Girls Petting” (image courtesy the artist)

Yolande Armstrong

Age: 67

Location: Cornwall, United Kingdom

Artistic Medium: Painting

Who are you and what do you do?

Human beings dance around a triangle of tenderness, brutality, and passion. My paintings explore our secret parts, desires and shames, and our ability not only to brutalize and destroy, but also to recreate and regenerate ourselves and our world. As a feminist, I strive to build a repertoire of images of powerful women and girls and never to oversimplify gender issues. I’ve made a series called Fishy Fanny paintings — women spouting fish from their mouths as anger, dreams, etc. — which became a sort of un-raping. I have a current series, called Top Half, which is initiated by ideas about sexual abuse and exploitation: tough girls who refute the idea of victimhood. My work is dark, rich, and often humorous; a particular brush-stroke or surprising reference can disrupt meaning. I aim to subvert.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

My own childhood, my step-grand-daughter, and Pina Bausch.

Describe your coffee order.


What is your greatest accomplishment?

Becoming a painter after waiting for about forty years to start.

What constitutes a perfect day?

Painting until lunch, then swim at a local idyllic beach.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

Sam Bassett at the Anima Mundi Gallery.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

To spread compassion.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I never lie (sorry for the old joke).

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

How did you get such fabulous technique?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?


What did you make when you first started making art?

An embroidered comb case for my mother.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Tea, always.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

I really loved “The Three Graces” by Peter Paul Rubens when I was in Madrid this year. I was shocked to discover the beauty of how he painted flesh; it’s butter-soft.

What are your plans for pride month?

Be a lesbian.

What is the future of queerness?

Spreading day by day.

Back in my day…

A woman had to get her husband’s permission for any loan!

Name one guilty pleasure.

No guilt. It’s the least useful emotion.

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

A pervading sense of existential angst.

Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

No. It’s specially hard for young people in rural environments.

How do you stay cool during the summer?

In the sea.

What is your favorite type of milk?

Can’t do this one.

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

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