On Femininity

A friend of mine, who identifies along the transgendered spectrum, wrote in a recent piece that he intends to physically transition in the next year or so. I have been aware to some extent about his progress in that direction (and have a love and affection for him that is, as I have told him, "outside of gender," something I really can't say about anyone else I have known) but for some reason this timestamp, this statement that he's not just going to float about in the middle between genders, has thrown me for a loop.

I think it is because it comes crashing up against recent understandings I've come to have about my personal affiliation with femininity and its role in my artwork.

I've never considered myself particularly feminine. An only child to a father who I suspect would have been much more comfortable having a son, I was raised somewhat like a son. Not to say that he denied my being a girl, but we bonded via power tools. He is the reason that I have an extensive power tool collection today. My mother raised me pretty gender-neutrally as well -- I suspect that, in her mind, being a girl child equated to a very painful experience, so she was conscious not to pass that on.

Jump forward to the current day, my artwork is arguably one of my most feminine expressions of self. Lots of pink, and flesh, and sexuality. Looking at the subject matter itself, it's very much about the physical component of being female: female genitalia, breasts, the consequences inherent in a uterus (birth, cramps, blood). Only sometimes does it break past the purely physical into something bordering on societal: excessiveness versus voluptuousness (fat is a very culturally baggage-laden subject, especially where it intersects with the feminine); the binding or hanging of the flesh, which can be interpreted in a myriad of ways, whether gendered, relating to the 'human condition,' socio-economic, emotional, etc.

A work in progress. Ostensibly having to do with the heart, but just as much (for me, at least) about menstrual cramps and the sort of reoccurring, copious blood that is part of the female experience.

So now, mentally juxtaposing our two versions of femininity, my friend's and mine, I don't know what to make of it. His wardrobe is far more feminine than mine; my sense of femininity is mostly related to the anatomy over which I had no choice in being given. Like if you could blend us up and edit out the incongruous parts, we could be a 'complete woman' in both gender expression and biological senses.

Maybe I shouldn't make anything of it. Maybe that's the point of all this, to show me how irrelevant these culturally-loaded terms can become in the face of very real personal experience. How diverse personal experiences really are, and how insufficient language is to express them in their fullness and nuances.

But this friend of mine would probably have something to say about that -- he is a writer, after all.

Oh, February, how you fly!

February's been trucking along at full speed so far!

On Super Bowl weekend, I printed up a set of wedding invitations for a bride in Texas. They were a customization of my country sunset design, and involved a gradient that was making a little nervous, to be honest, but they came out great. I'll have full pictures in a few days on the Phaedra Paperie blog but til then, here's a little peek into the printing process.

Then, I got back to the work of remodeling/reorganizing my studio. I know it's been a long time since my Remodel: Part 1 post, but it's an ongoing process. My studio has vertical beams that run down the middle of the space, and the remnant of the house's original chimney, which makes it hard to make the most of the space. Boxes and piles have a tendency to collect along the dead space around the beams. So I took that area and turned it into a work surface with storage underneath. It's not yet what I would call clean, but now at least I have a well-lit place to do small paintings, drawings, pen and ink, etc. without having to clear a spot and sit on the floor.

Capping off the month so far, yesterday I had Kate from Katie Joy Photography over. She's an up-and-coming photographer who will be shooting her first wedding in only a couple of days, and just got a new camera. We know each other from our day jobs, but it was great to interact with her on a professional level. I needed some professional/head shot type photos, and I also wanted to get some action shots in the studio. We looked through a few, and they looked promising -- the studio shots especially looked great. I'm so excited to see all the shots!

Portland State Recent Grad Show

A painting of mine was chosen by guest curator James Yood for this upcoming show of alumni work in PSU's Autzen Gallery. The show opens this Thursday, with an opening reception on Saturday from 6 to 9 pm. Yood also is giving a lecture on Monday the 16th in Shattuck Hall (Rm 198) at 7:30 as part of the Monday Night Lecture Series.

Judging by his curator's statement, Yood seems pretty cool. Straightforward about art rather than pretentious and uber-conceptual (my perception of what many artists bound up in the academic world seem to be -- I likely just need to meet more people in that category). I'm going to try to make it to the lecture and see if that impression pans out.