Xiyadie’s Queer Cut Utopias: A Vivid Journey into the Artist’s Mind

  • May 17, 2023

Xiyadie's exhibition, "Queer Cut Utopias," at the Drawing Center in New York City explores the artist's life and struggles as a gay man in a society where homosexuality is not openly accepted.
Xiyadie, a self-taught artist from China, has used the ancient Chinese craft of paper-cutting to create intricate scenes of gay male love, depicting his fantasies and personal struggles as a closeted gay man.
His works showcase explicit scenes of pleasure and desire, with figures engaged in erotic acts, juxtaposed against flat sceneries of architectural and natural beauty, reminiscent of traditional Asian and Middle Eastern miniature traditions.
Notable works include "Kaiyang," which features a riotous celebration of pleasure with intertwined figures, and "Gate," portraying the artist's life in a touching yet haunting light, capturing the complex emotions he experiences.
Xiyadie's artistic process is as important as the final product, with paper cutting being a ritualistic and prayer-like act that mirrors the sensuality depicted in the images. His art serves as a cathartic confession and an unapologetic portrayal of his desires, celebrating the beauty of queer love and defying societal constraints.


In the heart of New York City, an extraordinary exhibition, “Queer Cut Utopias,” reveals the intricate and emotive work of the Chinese artist Xiyadie.

The exhibition, held at the Drawing Center, is a unique exploration of the artist’s life and psyche, his challenges, and fantasies as a gay man in a country where homosexuality is not openly accepted.

Unveiling Xiyadie: The Siberian Butterfly

Born into a farming village in a province of Northwest China, Xiyadie, which means “Siberian butterfly,” is the pseudonym of a 60-year-old self-taught artist.

Despite living a bifurcated life, with a wife and children on one side and his secret identity as a gay man on the other, Xiyadie has spent over four decades using the ancient Chinese craft of paper-cutting to create scenes of gay male love.

His works, exhibited for the first time in the U.S., are an exploration of his fantasies and musings, a testament to his personal struggle as a closeted gay man.

The artist’s journey to recognition has been slow, with his first show only taking place in 2010 at the Beijing LGBT Center. Since then, he has participated in several group exhibitions across Asia and Europe.

A Tapestry of Queer Pleasure and Nature’s Bounty

Xiyadie’s works are a sensual symphony of figures cut out of paper and painted with Chinese pigments.

The sinuous shapes and curvaceous slits, transformed into bodies locked in a dance of pleasure, display an almost rhythmic harmony.

The viewer is transported into the artist’s vivid imaginations, where men with otherworldly features partake in erotic acts, blissfully detached from the world outside.

These explicit scenes are masterfully set against flat sceneries of architectural and natural beauty, reminiscent of Asian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern miniature traditions.

In a playful defiance of perspective, temples rise as high as bodies, and the moon is as large as a man’s head.

The exhibition, held at the Drawing Center, is a unique exploration of the artist’s life and psyche, his challenges, and fantasies as a gay man in a country where homosexuality is not openly accepted.

Kaiyang and Other Masterpieces

One of Xiyadie’s most notable works, Kaiyang (2021), is a visual spectacle that recalls the chaos of Picasso’s Guernica and the psychosexual ethos of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. 

A multitude of men are depicted in a lustful procession, their bodies intertwined in a riotous celebration of pleasure, set against a background filled with amusing details.

Another artwork, Gate, showcases the artist’s life in a touching yet haunting light. In the work, a figure representing Xiyadie is shown performing oral sex on a man outside his home, while his wife cradles their child inside.

This kaleidoscopic portrayal of pleasure, regret, and fear brings out the tumultuous emotions experienced by the artist.

The Silent Symphony of Paper Cuts

The artist’s work is as much about the process as it is about the final product.

The paper cutting process is ritualistic, involving a prayer-like, repetitive motion that mirrors the sensual content of the images.

Each cut is made with love and care, smoothly bending to transform into a buttock, an ear, testicles, or a flower.

The use of pastel hues lends a youthful sheen to the skin, while pinks color the roses and nipples, and green creeps across the figures and into their penises and eyebrows.

Smaller-scale monochromatic cut-outs in red or black yield more hallucinatory silhouettes, with circular bodies entangled like flowers amid towering trees.

The Siberian Butterfly Takes Flight

Through his works, Xiyadie has crafted a vibrant and intimate world that defies societal constraints and celebrates the beauty of queer love.

His detailed depictions of carnal escapades are matched with an equally compelling portrayal of nature’s bounty, creating a utopia where pleasure is the principle and sex is the ritual.

Xiyadie’s art is a cathartic confession, a powerful testament to his inner struggles, and an unapologetic portrayal of his desires.

It’s a world that, until recently, was confined to the confines of his imagination. But with his first U.S. exhibition, Xiyadie’s “spiritual world,” as he refers to his paper-cutting craft, is gaining recognition.

The Siberian butterfly, as Xiyadie likes to call himself, has finally found a stage where he can showcase his narratives of queer pleasure, unshackled by the sorrows and worries of his real world.

With “Queer Cut Utopias,” Xiyadie’s art is starting to flutter beyond the confines of his personal realm, introducing the world to the rich tapestry of his mind.

The exhibition stands as a testament to the artist’s resilience, his ability to create beauty amid struggle, and his unyielding belief in the power of free imagination.


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