I use art for self-exploration, hoping that the products of this exploration may reach others. I try and paint technically as well as I can, using my painting prowess to draw the viewer in. Once they’re in, then the subject of the painting may be considered.
I grew up in a house full of women, my grandmother as matriarch. It was a big house that was filled with women and children, who were either divorced or separated from their fathers and husbands. I watched a lot of westerns and war movies fantasizing that the men in the family were off having these great adventures. My father was a career officer in the Air Force. I would visit him every other summer and seeing him in his uniform only confirmed these fantasies. Being a natural tomboy, I longed for the freedom and adventure I imagined was a natural born right to those lucky enough to be born male.
Nothing about being female appealed to me. My favorite toys were my G.I. Joe and Johnny West dolls. I would spend hours playing with them. Often make them weapons and sew them clothing. One Christmas, I got a Barbie doll. I remember very vividly using her as a prop. I took some string and tied her up and had my Sam Cobra action figure hold her hostage. I turned around and saw my grandmother, with the disapproving face, hovering over me. That Barbie disappeared and my sister received her for Christmas next year.
My overseers attempts to feminize me were for not. I longed for the life I imagined the men having, so much so that I identified more with boys than girls. When I was made to wear a dress to school, I felt like I was in drag. I would run home after school and throw on my older brothers hand-me-downs. If I wasn’t playing with my action figures, then I was drawing cowboys and soldiers. At one point I had a whole platoon of paper doll soldiers I had made. I very seldom drew women. On the rare occasion I did they were usually tied up and something that the men were fighting over.
As my consciousness of what and why I paint has matured and become more clear, gender and sexuality has become a focal point of my art. The line between male and female has become blurry. My subjects range from cis men, cis women, trans men, trans women and many others on the non-binary rainbow. I’ve painted women as fierce warriors, and men as objects of desire. I’ve painted a trans guy as a modern-day Bacchus with the fruits of his overindulgence between his thighs. I’ve painted a cis and trans woman together complementing and contrasting each other. I’ve done a portrait of my own midsection corseted and feminized and right after painted my midsection in black leather with a black dildo. I treat my subjects with respect and humanity without negating their differences and struggles.
I was born in England in 1976. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University, and worked in journalism and copywriting before moving into landscape design and construction. I qualified as a Landscape Architect in 2008. More recently, I have been making sculptural ceramic work for plants that I see as an extension of my work as a landscape designer, only on a smaller scale. I have also appeared in some of the films of the Gay film-maker Antonio da Silva, including Solos (2014), Spunk (2015) and Ecosexual (2015), on which we worked in collaboration.
Sunday, Artist Reception, 4-7p
Monday, Viewing and House Tours, 6-9p
Published: 18th April 2017Tags: Artist-in-Residence, INSIDE OUTSIDE, Rowland Byass, Suzanne Shifflett, Tom of Finland Day
Categorised in: Events