A young woman recently asked me if I could do a small write up of how I feel women and queer women artists are generally perceived and treated by mainstream media and I so I wrote a small blurb but it got me to thinking about this and led to some degree of introspection and questioning.
As a queer woman, one who is also of transsexual origin, I sometimes find I am viewed as not acceptable for major galleries and some venues, this is due in part to how I was born but also more than a little because of what I create. I say this since I have been turned away on a number of occasions after having been nearly drowned in kudos for the high technical quality, beauty and strength of my art. Recently, my art has found it’s way into a major Gay and Lesbian Art Museum but otherwise, my paintings remain unwelcome in most conventional venues.
My art disturbs and I concede that it may not be for every human palate, that maybe it makes polite society cringe and wringing their collective hands at the thought of having art such as mine up on the walls of any conventional gallery for fear it may taint their sphincteral hold upon free thinking and women’s issues and lives.
My art has evolved over the past 5-6 years, from a series on vaginas which were greatly inspired by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, to going full throttle with some erotic pieces as a way of expressing my newfound sexuality and happiness with my body. My quest for a personal (and different from male imposed) language through my paintings that channels the female body, in which I strive to question and interrogate and explore this relationship between bodies, power and their expression. It is my view that it is imperative to reclaim our bodies, both as women and as women artists creating works of art that re-define the gaze from one of male to that of the female in relationship to how women’s bodies are perceived in art.
I still do some erotic drawings and paintings but my gaze as a feminist, queer and female bodied woman and of course artist has blossomed into a passion for women’s issues. I claim no academic stance of feminism or of art beyond how I perceive what is in front of my eyes, this is simply me as I view.
It has been my experience that if it were not for the quality of my art; my queerness as a woman as well as my being born with transsexuality would mostly be an hindrance to any type of success as an artist unless it was within a community of like minded people and groupings and this to me would be too stifling to restrictive, too ghetto.
There are too few queer women who are properly and respectfully portrayed in mainstream media without there being inappropriate references to their sexuality, their bodies and lives. When there is any media coverage of queer women, it is rarely if ever about their positive accomplishments as the tendency is to focus on how different they are. Queer women are sadly still often perceived as oddities, freaks. My queerness isn’t seen in how I present in public, it’s in who I am as a woman and as an artist. What seems to queer me most is that I am of transsexual origin, and when media get a hold of this aspect of my life, they only want to know about who I was before surgery and how things were, etc,. Some within the Christian community think I’m an abomination and would just as soon see me burnt for my sins. Although I have been quite fortunate in being included, I am always in fear of rejection from women only art shows and spaces. Even within the LGBT movement, because of my refusal of being lumped under the transgender catch all umbrella term, I am perceived as a trouble maker and elitist when all I really identify as in term of sex and gender is woman and female but this is forcefully attacked by some in that movement as not good for the party line, so I’m again othered by the very ones who wish to force me into their ill fitting box.
From experience, it can sometimes be hurtful to see that you, as a queer woman may have been overlooked or even put aside for some other woman or artist who is mainstream and socially/physically more appealing. This is something I know about and even when showing in a non-mainstream context such as an erotic art show, I am still perceived as strange and somewhat avoided. People’s imaginings of who I am are often fraught with the sort of darkness, that if I didn’t know and understand who I am as a woman, I’d certainly be crushed and taken my own life by now. I have had to fight to simply be me in a world dominated by a misogynistic attitude towards women, one in which my art kept me afloat in a sea of prejudice, hate and sexism.
My awareness of female bodies and love of them is a struggle/play between my aesthetic and political senses and values, I speaks to both, sometimes within the same painting. I feel that I impart a certain organic, feminine cognitive aspect of myself in my art, that it can be understood and felt, all depending on the topic and/or subject of a given piece. My aesthetic sense is very much my own, female but born of a life in the wrong body and subjected to years of seeing through the world of the opposite gender. My awareness speaks to survival, to female eroticism and to the extraordinary queerness of life. My work also delves on pain and othering at times, of being on the outside looking in. Being a woman of transsexual experience has permitted me to better understand oppression and prejudice but also to better appreciate womanhood and the sheer wonder of being a woman. I am conscious of being different, of my sexual identity, my gender and my orientation and I hope to, through my art, walk my talk, to put on canvas, my truths.
So this is my thoughts on things so far, mainstream media continues to perceive queer women artists as of lesser value and not to be taken seriously, that we can bring no good to the world and can only harm their blessed (by themselves) patriarchal edicts of truth and what can be spoken of in polite company. The colonization of the world isn’t only the great massacres, the genocides, the rapes and theft of lands and traditions, it is also the insidious brainwashing that has been ongoing for a couple of millennia whose purpose is the absolute control of women’s voices.