How to Be a Rebel and Win: Rigel Gemini on Gender, Art, and Turning Struggle into Creativity

Watch Rigel react to the High’s newest exhibition, Outliers and American Vanguard Art.

Have you heard of Rigel Gemini?

If you’re one of Rigel Gemini’s thousands of followers on Instagram, you already know that this Atlanta-based blogger and content creator is into all things art, fashion, and LGBTQ lifestyle.

Rigel is a member of the High Museum of Art’s new #HMACollective — and he’s also a self-proclaimed outlier.

In Rigel’s words, “[An] outlier could be anyone who breaks the mold, who’s an activist, who’s not afraid to stand up for their ideas… I do consider myself an outlier, and I make an effort every day to do what feels right and make my own path in life.”

Rigel came to see the High’s current exhibition Outliers and American Vanguard Art, and he was struck by the show’s inclusivity and the diversity of artists and experiences represented.

Outliers features artworks by both trained and untrained artists, including works by 24 women, 32 artists of color, 4 artists with disabilities, and 8 first-generation Americans. The show tells a story of how artists who were marginalized because of race, gender, class, region, education, disability, or sexual orientation ended up influencing the mainstream art world. These innovators ignored the rules of traditional arts institutions, created artworks that spoke to their truths, and managed to alter the course of modern and contemporary art.

Watch the video below to hear Rigel’s reactions, and read on to learn more about his favorite artist in Outliers.

Rigel’s Pick: Greer Lankton

Rigel’s interest in transgender and non-binary artists attracted him to the work of Greer Lankton.

Greer Lankton, Jackie Kennedy, 1986

“I was especially moved by the art of Greer Lankton, who’s a trans female. The art she produced is so visceral and moving, and she’s able to address a really deep and powerful topic in an accessible way. She’s obviously an outlier. She’s part of the trans community, which is a group that’s been marginalized in our history, and she’s putting that perspective right front and center.”

Greer Lankton (1958–1996) was an artist and fixture of the East Village arts scene in the 1980s. She crafted expressive, lifelike dolls depicting cultural and subcultural icons as well as familiar faces from her downtown scene.

Lankton’s cadre of characters is at once glamorous and grotesque, both invoking societal standards of beauty while subverting and distorting them. The dolls express complex conceptions of beauty, gender, and identity — their creation as well as their performance.

The stitched figures also deal with the physicality of sexual reassignment, which Lankton experienced at a young age.

Having spent her childhood years navigating life as Greg — a slender, fashionable boy who began making dolls at age 10 — Lankton endured teasing and harassment. At age 21, she underwent sexual reassignment surgery.

When it came to her art, Lankton had the freedom to create what she wanted. She even altered already existing dolls, keeping their identities in flux. From changing outfits to body types, anything was possible.

Dolls and photographs by Greer Lankton. Twins, 1986; Freddie and Ellen Kissing, ca. 1983; Untitled, ca. 1983.

After looking at Lankton’s work in Outliers, Rigel commented, “I think that as queer people we actually are creative by nature in some ways because we’ve had to think about our own identities as sort of a creative process…. Society has certain norms. But as queer people, we’ve put all of that into question, and we’ve kind of created our own identities in ways that feel natural for us.”

Are you an outlier, rebel, or renegade? Come kick it with your fellow outliers at our Alternative Prom First Friday on August 3. Expect a DJ, performances, art making, and a chance to see Outliers and American Vanguard Art (on view through September 30).

By Eva Berlin, Digital Content Specialist, High Museum of Art