On Making Trans Art

by: Taylore GrunertImage of trans individual staring into the distance

On Thursday, March 14, the Rainbow Center hosted its annual Art Gala. The Gala featured art from students on campus, from those both affiliated with the Rainbow Center and those from the larger community. I love events like this. Professional artists, those with the aspirations to be professional, and those for whom art is simply a fun hobby (such as myself) were all able to display their work in an equalizing space. We were all given the same attention, the same time, the same platform.

I also love art museums. I love to be confronted with the multitudes of human experience, with the work of lives I will never interact with except for in the moment when I see what they have produced. But the sad fact is, for as many museums as I have visited, I have never—not once—seen a piece of art which depicts a trans experience. No bodies which display the beautiful and rich history of a body which is not cisgender. No loves which are desperate, defiant, and sweet, as a trans romance is. No clothes, even, which examine the exploration and artifice of gender roles. In a museum, I have never seen the radical self-love which defines what it means to be trans.

Trans perspectives are laughably absent from the mainstream art world. Does this mean that there are no trans people creating art? No, of course not. A trans person is not obligated to create art which discusses their identity. (Although, there is an argument to be made that it is still “trans art,” by virtue of its creator.) And in all probability, even non-modern art has been made by people who, were they alive today, might have identified with the word “transgender”.

There is a comfort in this, but also a sadness, a feeling of loss. Quite frankly, I am tired of the lack of representation. I should not have to do the constant mental work of convincing myself that, in a room of hundreds of paintings of portraits, landscapes, and bowls of fruit, that there is art created by someone like me. In short, I hunger for art which is explicitly and unashamedly transgender.

This is why, when I was creating the pieces I submitted to the Art Gala, I made them about being trans. This is why I felt vitally, critically, that I had no other options. And this does not mean that I felt confined or boxed in in my subject matter. Rather, it was freeing; I expressed myself creatively, passionately, lovingly. I am emphatically proud of my paintings.

Art from the Gala will be on display for the next two weeks in the Rainbow Center. I would encourage everyone to come and take a look.