After three weeks, I finally received my copy of the Art New England magazine November/December issue! My words - and my work - are featured in the article 'Turning Barriers Into Bridges' by art and culture writer Tori Rysz. You can read more about the article in my previous blog post.
Previously, I read the article on the ANE website, unable to see the full spread formatted for print, the design of the magazine, itself. While my article interview is on page 33, to my incredible surprise my piece 'Neon Opalescence' covers most of page 34!
This article features multiple artists, and how 'transgender and gender non-conforming people use the power of art to fight prejudice.' Tori did an amazing job with this article; while she had to trim content to accommodate the article's length, she definitely captured the important points. She had sent me an email with several interview questions, and I surprised myself at how much I had to say, or, rather, how much I wanted to share. There was one poignant question to which I had a very personal answer, and perhaps I gave such a personal answer because I have such a strong desire to talk about it.
"How does your work connect to the theme of 'Makeover'? Can you give me some thoughts on metamorphosis and identity exploration in your work?"
I loved the ideas of identity and metamorphosis behind the Boston LGBTQIA Artist Alliance and Subsamon show 'Makeover!' because these ideas connect with me both on a personal level, and connect to my work. I often try to create work that shows genderless or dual-gender characters, focusing heavily on internal thoughts versus external actions. When I create illustrations and digital art, you can often find that an object you perceive to be singular is actually many different things, expressing that one being ends where another begins. Duality and impermanence is a heavy theme in my work, however light I may make of it at times.
Now here's where I completely deviated, and got personal. Little did the great writer Tori know her simple question had opened the introspection floodgates...
I was raised and treated as androgynous, subject to both male and female gender roles. As an infant, I was confused as a boy, and my sudden extreme height, deep voice and excessive body hair at age three forced me into the guidelines 'big girls - and boys - don’t cry.' Other girls my age were allowed to be coddled, while I was reprimanded. I was always the male character when playing games, and, while both genders ridiculed me, both genders were also attracted to me. As Vince Noir says in the BCC show 'The Mighty Boosh' - "I'm the confuser."
I've always found masculinity to be attractive, and have always been proud to be considered more 'masculine' than the other girls because, according to society’s asinine gender roles, this meant I was stronger both physically and mentally. In an ironic twist, this gave me a sense of validation that was otherwise absent in my life purely due to those same, societal gender roles.
Despite my feminine looks as an adult, I have gone through life feeling gender-amorphous. Growing up, I was friends with many boys who would suddenly abandon me due to their own, confusing feelings of both attraction and competition. Female friends would want to play borderline sex games before accusing me of being a "man" and parting ways.
Over the years I’ve learned to identify with both genders, giving me great compassion and understanding for gender struggles, and the ability to write, act and portray both genders in my work.
One such example is actually an early comedy video 'Girl Talk: Flirting' (2010) in which I act as four female characters, and one male character, landing me the 2011 Massachusetts College of Art & Design 'Vice President Award.'
In fact, dealing with gender roles was much more challenging as I entered college; with a new set of people who don't know you or your past, they first see you not as a person - but as a woman. People see your face before they hear your words, and it has taken me time to realize that being a 'woman' means being treated a step below that of a 'person.' This also made me realize that I, too, view women the way in which men are stereotypically taught to view women; as lesser.
While I have the ability to understand both genders very deeply, it's hard to grasp that people now perceive me as simply one of those genders - one that I never fully identified with, despite desperate attempts at an early age.
This begs the question: is perception reality?
I find I struggle to find 'myself' - the part of my identity I lost to others' perception. For instance, if I'm modeling and happily comment on a photo, "Wow, I look so masculine!", the often-male photographers will snap at me with such things as, "No, don't say that - you're beautiful!" By making such statements, they undermine my own identity and it hurts - it's insulting. (And, if we all recall America's Next Top Model, even Tyra Banks knows that the most beautiful women have masculine features! - and if you can find a link to that statement, send it my way...)
The last few years have been full of introspection, learning how to connect my thoughts and ideas to the mediums I use, such as film and digital art. I have truly been inspired by the recent shows and collaborations I've been part of, now focusing on being perceived as the person I am. I've written numerous essays and scripts on this topic that I'd like to produce in the next few years in order to present these ideas to others.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and getting to know a bit about me - a large 'bit' I wanted to share. If you want to share anything with me, yourself, I'd love to listen :)