Noah Grigni describes the art that they post on Instagram @ngrigni as colorful, portrait driven, “unapologetically queer,” and introspective. “My art is very personal,” Grigni said, “And I feel sometimes I’m almost oversharing in my art, but then because it’s in the form of a painting it’s OK.” The 21-year-old spoke to the Globe about making art as a transgender kid in Georgia, balancing life is both a creator and an organizer, and the children’s book they are currently illustrating with writer Theresa Thorn, to be published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers in June 2019.
Q. What would you describe as your artistic medium?
A. I mainly do watercolor. Watercolor is my favorite. But I also do acrylic paintings. I do gouache, ink. And I try to get more into digital, but most of my stuff is not digitally edited at all.
I’m studying illustration. And most illustrators make their art digitally, like either using a tablet or you know like an iPad Pro or something and that’s sort of like the age that we’re entering, like doing digital art is a very valued skill and it’s considered an industry standard now. And I don’t really work digitally that much. Although I scan all my work in. But I guess I haven’t really made the transition to working digitally, because I really like getting my hands dirty and I like working with actually paint. But I do love digital art. And I’m not trying to discount it all.
Q. What do you want people who see your art to get out of it? What conversations are you trying to start with it?
A. My art at its core… I make art by trans people for trans people. I lot of the work that I make involves trying to find a visual representation for the way that I experience dysphoria. And a lot of it is really just trying to find a way to process the way I relate to my gender, celebrate historical figures who have paved the way for us, and celebrate gender fluidity. So I hope that when people look at my art, it encourages them to reflect on their own fluidity and find beauty in it. And I also sort of think of my art as a reminder to heal, a reminder to care for yourself and look inwards and practice some form of healing and self-reflection. A lot of it is about body positivity as well.
Q. And what made you decide to start sharing your work on Instagram and social media in general?
A. Before I was on Instagram, I was on DeviantArt, which is really embarrassing. I mean, I can’t say this is when I first got into art, because I’ve always loved making art, but when I first started sharing online, it was in eighth grade on DeviantArt, and what I really liked about sharing my art online was that I could sort of create this persona for myself and most importantly I could present myself as a boy. Nobody on DeviantArt knew that I was assigned female at birth. That sort of allowed me to share my art on my own terms, versus if I just shared it at school, I had to first go through this awkward interaction, where whoever I was talking to thought I was a girl, and like sort of go through that.
Sharing my art online to me removed that layer of anxiety and it really allowed me to reach other trans people most importantly, because at that point in time I did not have any trans friends. I didn’t know anyone else who was trans besides me and I kind of had not acknowledged that I was trans myself. So I think sharing my art online allowed me to connect with other queer artists and sort of access a community which wasn’t readily available as a trans kid who grew up in Georgia.
Q. Anything else?
A. I guess I would say, I guess one conflict that I’ve been feeling a lot lately, is this conflict between whether I want to prioritize my own art or whether I want to prioritize organizing spaces for other artists to show their work, which is something that I’ve started doing since I moved to Boston about two years ago. I’ve gotten involved with organizing art shows, and specifically organizing shows for young queer artists, who might not have the chance to show their work in the more prestigious established venues across Boston.