A few of the things that I’ve been thinking about are experiencing:
I’m trying to figure out how to create a portrait that doesn’t point at the models transgender “presence” directly but references their sense of self. What seems to be important is the necessity for a framing that gives the context of that individual. Even if a labeling were to denote these people as transgender the viewer would be looking for “tells.” Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” from 2014 incorporates the spectator involuntary into the artwork: by recording the observers reaction Walker showed that it wasn’t the artwork that objectified the subject but the viewer who did the objectification. I want to take this tactic and incorporate it into the piece. I think its necessary to call out the viewer who inscribes the models with a validation of their identity.
I’ve starting work on finding transgender models in the area to share their stories. Around 7 individuals have messaged me to set up times for sitting. The transgender models who have come in or will be coming in range from 19-28 years of age. I would love to find some older individuals in their 40’s-70’s who have had longer to settle into who they are as a transgender person. I think the issue for these older individuals is they are in the work place and are afraid to out themselves. Or there are fewer older transgender people in the community because there hasn’t been as my developments in medicine or tech except in the last twenty years. That is my opinion and may not be the case. But I do feel that may be an aspect I want to approach in the near future.
I’ve been overwhelmed with the community support from friends, faculty, and social media. I’m very grateful for everyone’s generosity and heartfelt messages. There is confirmation through the community that what I’m working on is important. However, what I’m doing is also dangerous. It’s dangerous for me to be out and making work and it’s dangerous for the individuals who choose to allow me to represent themselves. I received an email responding to one of my call for models on craigslist: “rot in hell!” and one from yesterday: “gawddamned bunch of PETER PUFFIN SODOMITES.” I’m choosing not to engage with these individuals directly. Instead, I’ll be adding them to a weekly mailing list detailing the progress of the project.