Throughout its history, art has proven to be a mighty tool of expression and has been giving voice to individuals and communities across our planet. It helped and continues to help many fights for equality and tolerance - think of the powerful feminist art movement of the 1970s which arose against very patriarchal tendencies.
But when it comes to the transgender or genderqueer people, their own history and art has been a rather small part of the larger LGBT circle, but those times began to change with the foundation of the Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art.
No, that’s not a typo - they use “hirstory” on purpose, mixing pronoun “hir” and “history”, for a gender-neutral history all their own. The Museum, of MOTHA, finally puts in the spotlight entire generations of creative, talented artists who have contributed to our culture silently and almost invisibly, up until now, and promises to become a home for generations of transgender art makers to come. In light of such commitment, we decided to shed some light ourselves.
Editors’ Tip: Queer and Trans Artists of Color: Stories of Some of Our Lives
Through sixteen unique and honest conversation, this book lets us know about what it’s like for queer and transgender artists of color to work in the creative field today. Read the inspiring stories of activist Nia King, who left a full-time job in an effort to centre her life around making art, and her discussions on fat burlesque with Magnoliah Black, queer fashion with Kiam Marcelo Junio, interning at Playboy with Janet Mock, dating gay Latino Republicans with Julio Salgado, intellectual hazing with Kortney Ryan Ziegler, gay gentrification with Van Binfa, getting a book deal with Virgie Tovar, the politics of black drag with Micia Mosely, evading deportation with Yosimar Reyes, weird science with Ryka Aoki, gay public sex in Africa with Nick Mwaluko, thin privilege with Fabian Romero, the tyranny of “self-care” with Lovemme Corazón, “selling out” with Miss Persia and Daddie$ Pla$tik, the self-employed art activist hustle with Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarsinha...
A Chinese-Swedish-American artist Wu Tsang is an important figure in the world of video art, whose work combines community organizing, activism, gender fluidity and subcultures.
Her feature documentary, Wildness, documents the Los Angeles trans bar called Silver Platter, and it received praise at Sundance Festival and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. The film shows the way certain people are often stereotyped, such as members of trans and queer communities.
Apart from short films, Wu Tsang also does performances and installations, almost always tackling these crucial topics.
Living in New York as a photographer, writer and publisher of groundbreaking magazines such as Original Plumbing and Translady Magazine, Amos Mac is very much a part of transgender art.
His powerful portraits capture trans and gender non-conforming people, going well beyond the surface. These images have been published by The New York Times, Interview Magazine, Vogue, OUT and Dazed & Confused, for example, and his work promoted many transgender models as well, including Hari Nef and Valentijn De Hingh.
Amos Mac had successful collaboration with fellow artists Zachary Drucker and Juliana Huxtable and has created advertising campaigns for brands like H&M.
Often a part of an artist duo (and a romantic couple) together with Rhys Ernst, Zackary Drucker is a multimedia artist whose work spans photography, performance, film and installation.
Her practice mainly focuses on the body and its relation to sexuality and gender, as well as the hidden aspects of transgender history, through facts and her own sexual identity.
Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst also documented their gender transition together, through an amazing series of photographs called Relationship. This project gives an unprecedented, intimate insight and provides crucial knowledge about such an important process.
She’s been around a while, but the art of Vaginal Davis is only getting recognized now.
You might know her from a famous song by Le Tigre (go listen to Hot Topic again if you don’t remember). Vaginal Davis is a performing artist, painter, independent curator, composer, writer and the owner of New York City’s Hag Gallery.
On herself, she once said: ”I’m intersex, born with both female and male genitalia, so I’m a strange hybrid creature. I’m also part German, quarter Jewish, my father was born in Mexico and my mother is French Creole. People would always stare at me, so I figured I might as well just be on stage!”
Yishay Garbasz is a British/Israeli artist working in the fields of photography, performance and installation. She too documented her transition from male to female and in her art, she often focuses on trauma and the inheritance of post-traumatic memory.
In one project, Yishay Garbasz explores her mother’s experiences as a Jewish Holocaust survivor, through a series of striking imagery.
The artist also dedicated some time to the Fukushima Nuclear Exclusion Zone, the South Korean island of Baengnyeongdo, and the Peace Lines of Northern Ireland. In 2010, she was Berlin woman filmmaker of the year.
The latest endeavor of Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst as a couple of artistic professionals is a widely successful Amazon original series Transparent.
The series has already been nominated for 11 Emmy awards and 2 Golden Globes! Rhys Ernst works as a director and filmmaker of his own works too - his This is Me got nominated for a 2015 Emmy award in Short-form non-fiction.
The works explores the real-life, everyday issues of trans and gender-nonconforming people. On his website, you can find five episodes of the docuseries, produced by wifey.tv.
In a kind of art that blends performance and body building, Canadian artist Cassils, turns the body into a sculpture that poses important questions about feminism, body art and gay male aesthetics.
For the Los Angeles-based creative, the issue of gender binaries and the things that are not immediately clear are very important, which is why Cassils actively incorporates enduring physical training and sport science into artistic practice.
These visual works give testimony to contemplating histories of violence, representation, struggle and survival. According to Cassils' own works, it is about performing transgender ”not as a crossing from one sex to another but rather as a continual process of becoming.”
The creative work of American artist Cooper Lee Bombardier is concerned with the themes of gender, masculinity and manhood, as well as survival, resiliency and healing, the physical experience and positioning of the queer body in the world.
He is a visual artist, writer, illustrator and performer, who in the past has done pretty much everything - construction worker, cook, carpenter, union stagehand, welder, shop steward, dishwasher, truck driver and housepainter.
His haunting and poetic paintings have participated in many group shows to date, while Cooper Lee Bombardier himself is all about writing teaching and performing writing all over the country.
When she’s not an artist and a theorist, Micha Cárdenas is the Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington | Bothell.
She works in New Media art, and her practice involves wearable electronics and the issues of transgender people of color within the digital realm.
Micha Cárdenas helped design the Transborder Immigrant Tool, a GPS device that helps undocumented immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border locate water stations, for instance, and has released many books regarding the issues of trans and genderqueer community.
Somewhat of a legend of the East Village art scene of the 1980s, Greer Lankton was an American artist known for her lifelike dolls based on her friends, many of which you know all too well - Nan Goldin, David Wojnarowicz and Peter Hujar.
Her dolls are often referring to the topics of gender and sexuality, resembling the work of Hans Bellmer.
Famed New York Times critic Roberta Smith once described her work as ”beautifully sewn, with extravagant clothes, make-up and hairstyles” and compared her characters to those of Egon Schiele.
Her long-awaited first important exhibition came in 2014, eighteen years after her death, at PARTICIPANT, INC in NYC.
Read Other Interesting Stories
The Cranbrook Art Museum is about to open a new exhibition called Shapeshifters consisting of more than seventy works from their collection.
TRNK Editions brings together a cross-section of queer artists of color in a digital exhibition and print sale that benefits The Ali Forney Center.
Gerda Wegener was an important 1920s Danish Modern painter, style icon and a wife of a trans woman Lili Elbe known for the film The Danish Girl.