Friday, September 27, 2013

En La Cocina Print Now Available

Measuring 48" x 60", En la Cocina is one of my largest  pieces. It is also one of my favorites, depicting my childhood home and the three pivotal women in my life. While many have shared my enthusiasm for this painting, not everyone has the available space or budget for the original. If you love this painting, you can now own a limited edition giclee print. It is available in 4 sizes in prices ranging from $55 to $195. Get yours from Latin Pop Shop on Etsy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Trans Art Project Show Title

I launched this project without a title for a few reasons. Well, to begin with, I simply didn't have one. But aside from that, I wanted to begin painting this series with only what I know from experience in my pocket and as few pre-conceptions as possible.
That said, I've grown tired of referring to it as "Trans Art Project" as it's begun to sound too cold and clinical to me. I'm wearing a paint-covered apron, not a lab coat.
I've done some thinking and I think I've got my title.

gerund or present participle: transcending
  1. 1.
    be or go beyond the range or limits of (something abstract, typically a conceptual field or division).
    "this was an issue transcending party politics"
    synonyms:go beyond, rise above

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blow Your Horn

Blow Your Horn, acrylic on canvas, 12" x 12"
This painting is available from Studio 4, Old Town or Latin Pop Shop on Etsy.
Also available as a print.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Birth of Venus

While I continue to reach out for participants in my Trans Art Project, the communication lines are now open between myself and those already on board. I have received some photos and conversations have begun. This means that the time has come for me to put brush to canvas and let some imagery begin to evolve. I have been both nervous and excited about this. My desire (need?) to embark on this journey was great enough for me to take the project on without pre-conceived notions of what the final works will look like. I started out wanting to execute these paintings in my signature Cubist Pop style, but then doubted myself momentarily, wondering if switching up my style might be more appropriate. After a few days of coming up with reasons to avoid my easel (and a good encouraging talking-to by studio partner/bestie MG Stout) I am back on track.  If I am creating works about people who have the courage to be themselves then how can I not be myself in their style and execution?? Cubist Pop it is!!
Yesterday I took the leap and began sketching the beginnings of what will be my Venus DeMars piece.   I then began to breaking down, simplifying and abstracting shapes. The painting is in its infancy, but I'm feeling positive and confident about what is happening on the canvas.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vote for Studio 4, Old Town: BEST GALLERY 2013

I am super-thrilled and proud to announce that Studio 4, Old Town has been nominated for BEST GALLERY in Washington Post Express' Best of 2013 list! Please vote for Studio 4, Old Town by clicking here or on the logo below.
Choose ARTS in the left column to find our category.
You can vote as often as you like!
Winners will be announced October 17.

As one of the newer art spaces in the DC/VA/MD scene, we are extremely excited about this nomination. We hope this comes as a result of the community connecting with our belief that ART IS FOR EVERYBODY and that it can be a vehicle for social change. Studio 4, Old Town is committed to producing projects and exhibits that range from whimsical to impactful. We strive to cultivate creativity in the community with all we do. Keep an eye out for our 2014 exhibit calendar.

Thank you!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Trans Art Project Interview: Brandi

What was the name given to you by your parents? What is your chosen name?

Honestly, my mom named me exactly what my name is now, Brandi Alexandra (after her favorite drink at the time, Brandi Alexander). When she found out I was going to be a boy...a "boy", she just changed it to the masculine form . It is now Brandi, legally.

When/How did you first know you were trans? How did this realization make you feel?

I knew when I was a teenager. That's when I learned what transgender was. I had always worn my mother's and aunt's clothes...since I was two. I always dreamed and hoped that I would wake up a girl, but didn't have a word to put with the feeling till I discovered Allanah Starr and Gia Darling.

How would you describe your childhood/life before your transition?

It honestly wasn't all that bad. I found time to be ME at night and on the weekends, although there was always this feeling that something was missing.

Who were some of your role models then? And now?

In the trans world, Janet Mock. And ALWAYS my mom!

Who did you first tell and what was their reaction?

Oddly enough, as a boy I dated trans women. There was a girl I was seeing who had been dying to get me all "dolled up" at a time I had purged everything and was trying my hardest to be a boy and not look back. Long story short, I let her dress me up and we went out. I told her everything about how I felt. She smiled and taught me about makeup.

Do you have any fears or concerns about "passing"?

I never know how to answer this question. I think it's overwhelmingly obvious about my situation, but I'm learning that for most people it's not obvious to them. Im still shocked when people don't know, though. I (personally) think I look OK for what I am.

What you are is a beautiful woman.
Have you experienced any unkindness, or worse from strangers in the community as a result of being identified as a trans individual?

I used to get called faggot so much I was shocked to discover it wasn't actually my first name! Still, much better than having things thrown at you from moving cars. people still feel the need to out me, though. And I just don't even get how someone can continuously mis-gender someone...

What is your profession?

Believe it or not, I am a Pro Wrestler! I also manage a gym.

Can you describe your experience transitioning in the workplace?

It was easy with wrestling. My old persona disappeared for a few years. When I got comfortable, I reinvented myself and came back. A few people know about me, but largely, I am not out...YET.
With the gym, it's been hard, Granted it could always be harder, but the emotional and mental devastation it has on a trans individual to be CONTINUOUSLY mis-genderef, it's a lot to bare. Cis people, please be more aware.

Does your family know? What are their attitudes toward your transition?

Now they do. It wasn't easy, though. My sister (who is 7) had the best reaction; "So you're a girl now? I like it better. Girls are more fun! Plus, you weren't good at being a boy. you didn't throw a football right." It took a bit for Grandma to come around, but everyone is 100% supportive now. I am blessed.

Are you dating/partnered? How did you meet?

I am currently seeing someone. We were set up by mutual friends.

Does their family know? Are they supportive?

My understanding is that only their mother and sister know. They are fully supportive, which is new for me. It takes getting used to. (laughs)

What has been the most difficult part of transitioning?

Having patience with those who don't get it.

What are some of your life goals?

To be a good mom and wife. To live to an old age. To hold a world record for something. Also to make an impact for the LGBT community with the WWE.

What would you tell someone just realizing they are trans?

Never shave your entire body right before going to the beach. Salt water is NOT your friend!
That, and...It's not easy, but it's worth it!

*photo published with permission from Brandi DeGroat

Thursday, September 12, 2013

City Song

City Song, acrylic on canvas, 30" x 24"

Another departure from color for our upcoming Back to Black show. 
This painting is available directly from my studio or Latin Pop Shop on Etsy.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dear Anonymous,

This comment in response to my How to Lose a Show post found its way to my blog last night at 10:53pm.

Anonymous said...
So you had the idea, you wrote it up, and... then you left the Workhouse before the show began. What are you whining about?
September 7, 2013 at 10:53 PM

I am quite the opinionated individual so, in the spirit of fairness and open communication, I promised myself when I started this blog, some five or so years ago, that I would always publish comments, even if negative or in disagreement with something I write...unless they turn out to be spam or at some point become abusive. To date I have only ever deleted spam posts.
Normally I reply directly in the comment section, however I feel this one deserves its own post, in order to clarify any confusion anyone out there might have over the Sueños Americanos exhibit or my no longer being at the Workhouse Arts Center.

Dear Anonymous,
First I'd like to clarify that I was not whining. I might bitch often, but I seldom whine. There is a difference. When something legitimately bothers me, I tend to confront it, allow myself a moment or two to bitch about it and move on. As stated in my post and video, I was allowing myself a moment of therapeutic bitchiness. I assure you that once I clicked the "publish" button on that post, I released my issue with the situation.
Please forgive me if I misunderstand, but your comment  "...then you left the Workhouse before the show began." reads to me as an implication that I abandoned the Workhouse and the show.
It is important to me that everyone know that I was very passionate and excited about this show. And even if I had, as you put it, left the Workhouse, I would have gladly returned to see its execution through. Unfortunately, I was already shut out of the show before the move to my new studio space ever came into play. My emails and inquiries as to what exactly my role would be went unanswered on more than one occasion while I was still on campus.
In addition, while it is true that my studio partner and I had considered moving once our leases were up, mostly due to a need for accessibility, I never just up and left the Workhouse. I was, in actuality,  displaced, when the building that housed my studio was leased out to a dance academy and I was told to move out without so much as the (to my understanding) legally required 30 day written notice. Due to our working style and process, my studio partner and I were told by staff that we were not a good fit for other buildings (and I do not disagree) and we negotiated to move our studio into the vacant storefront on campus, where we would offer special Art Monkey workshops and events that would help bring visitors to the already-struggling arts center, much like the events we held in the building we were told to vacate did. Surely, this should all be in a file somewhere, as we were required by the Workhouse to submit detailed proposals in writing to be presented and discussed with the CEO.
Imagine our disappointment and surprise when, practically overnight, this offer was taken off the table so that the storefront could become an office for the new tenants of our building. At this turn of events, we were informed that we needed to vacate promptly so that the new school could begin their renovations. Being released from our leases to accommodate this, we scheduled to move that very weekend. But, wait..."You can't" we were told, "because this weekend we're holding Spring Fest." So while we were told to pack our bags and move on, we now were once again in limbo because we had no free inventory to sell at Spring Fest, but couldn't use our time productively to move into our new work space either. Hmm...what to do? I did, ever so sarcastically, offer that we could greet Spring Fest guests into our building and they could admire the art-less walls and halls cluttered with moving boxes. They didn't seem to like this idea because us making our case only led to the Workhouse facilitating our move, including our moving truck, which they allowed us to bring on campus on the very verge of Spring Fest. Things always have a way of working out. Go figure! We actually completed our move a day before their event, because it never was our intention to disturb any happenings; just to move on.

I mostly want to be clear that I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Workhouse artist. It isn't just a fantastic workspace, I learned and was inspired by being a part of an art community. I made lasting friendships and a few doors, I believe, opened as a result of being an artist there. I have never wished anything other than it should thrive and become a true art destination. Most importantly, I loved my building (W-4). I had a choice of studios when I first arrived, but the building, silly as it may sound, just "spoke" to me. The work by other artists there spoke to me and its energy spoke to me. And I believe I made the absolute right choice, and wouldn't change a single thing.

Even though Sueños Americanos is no longer my show to be proud of, I wish it the best. This is why I included links to its information in my post. People should go see it. It is something that the Workhouse has never offered and it celebrates diversity. I also should be allowed my personal feelings as to why I might not. That doesn't seem like whining, does it?

I would also like to add that I respect everyones choice to comment anonymously. It is one of the greatest gifts afforded to humanity by the Internet Gods. Anonymous, you could be a member of the Workhouse staff, ex-colleage studio artist or a perfect stranger. Not knowing makes you mysterious and exciting, not cowardly. I do wish you the best, whomever you may be.

I hope you get a giggle and a bit of satisfaction in knowing that because of my undiagnosed OCD I felt it necessary to reply to your comment immediately and it is now nearly 4am. I'm due at the studio earlier than usual tomorrow. I'm shaking my fists up at you right now. Curses!

This Often-bitchy, but Always Well-meaning & Opinionated Artist

Friday, September 6, 2013

Nude with Guitar

My adventures in black and white continue...

Nude with Guitar, acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"

This painting is available directly from my studio or Latin Pop Shop on Etsy.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Trans Art Project Interview: Katrina

What was the name given to you by your parents?

My birth name was Alexander Lee Davies.

What is your chosen name?

My chosen name is Katrina Alexa Davies.

When/How did you first know you were trans and how did this realization make you feel?

I guess I've known for as long as I can remember, except I didn't know what it was. I've always had a fascination with girly things. I loved watching my mom put on her makeup. I distinctly remember sneaking into her closet when no one was home, among other things. Then I discovered trans people on the internet, but usually on some pornographic site. I was amazed, but not in a sexual way, how these beautiful women had male parts. I kept this fascination a secret because I thought maybe I was, in some way, perverted. Eventually, other parts of the community exploded and I realized transgenderism wasn't just a sex thing. Over the past couple of years I've gotten more involved with the gay and trans community and it became tangible. This is when I started to seriously consider transitioning, and to live life as a woman instead of using things like Halloween as an excuse to dress up. It felt liberating to just be able to shed what I considered taboo for so long and to let that secret out. I couldn't be happier.

 How would you describe your childhood/life before your transition? 

I was raised by a single mom and had two older brother. I visited my dad for holidays and birthdays, but her was not a big part of my upbringing. My family was amazing. One brother was all into sports while the other was all about video games. Both tried to get me into their world. I definitely went the video game nerd route. I guess I was able to connect better with a fantasy world (laughs). I did not enjoy sports or P.E. growing up because I was insecure with my physical body and was rarely accepted  among other kids. I didn't mind at the time. I was in my own little world. Most memories I have of playing with other kids in childhood are with girls. One very clear memory I have is of when I was in kindergarden. There was a kitchen play set there. I would always play dress up with this little blue dress and play in that kitchen.

Who were some of your role models then and now?

I would definitely say my mom. She always loved and supported me. She's still my role model today, but there is another trans girl that has been my biggest support during transition. Her name is Tess. I love her so much and owe her everything. I could not do this without her.

Who did you first tell and what was their reaction?

I told a close friend, before meeting Tess. I wanted to tell someone I knew who would not care. I knew that this coming out thing was going to be a process and I wanted to be well versed in telling people before I told my family. Hopefully by then I wouldn't have any fear in telling them.

So your family knows? What are their attitudes toward your transitioning?

Both my parents know. I told them before I began my transition. My mom and and step dad are extremely supportive. They welcomed me as their daughter with open arms. My mother acts as any mother would towards her daughter. 
My father is a different story. I never told him I liked men and he found out through Facebook. He never brought it up, but I could tell it bothered him. I couldn't hide my transition from him so I told him. He was speechless. I thought we were okay, but about a week later he called me and basically said we shouldn't talk anymore, along with some other things I didn't take well. I hope that one day he will learn to accept it, but it is something he has to come to terms with.

Do you have any fears or concerns about "passing"?

Of course! I don't think any trans girl or boy doesn't. My biggest concern is my adam's apple. I think it's pretty prominent even thought some friends tell me it isn't bad. It's not a huge deal to me now. I do plan on getting it shaved.Starting off, though, I felt that every person's eyes went straight to it and was very self-conscious about it.

Have you experienced any unkindness (or worse) from strangers in the community as a result of being identified as a trans individual?

Nothing too serious yet. I say "yet" because I'm sure I will experience some at some point. The biggest thing, I guess I've experienced was this asshole cab driver who refused to call me by a female pronoun and kept taking extended routes to my destination to run up the meter. I had my phone out with the quickest route was just watching him taking every ass-backwards way.

What is your profession?

I am a student and work as a makeup artists at a retail store.

Can you describe your experience transitioning in the workplace?

Work has been extremely supportive. I was upfront with them and told them well in advance before I began transitioning so it wouldn't come as a shock. Once I started hormones and things began to develop I started to let the staff know. As far as the public or customers, they too have been amazing. I love my job, and it shows. As long as I am happy and put out those good vibes, people don't seem to care. There have been some that refused to let me help them, but it's to be expected. Some people just can't handle things they don't consider "normal".

Are you dating/partnered? 

I am not, but I'm in the market, so to speak (laughs). I was never comfortable dating before because of my own insecurities. I am ready now.

What has been the most difficult part of transitioning?

The little things. My family, friends and work are all supportive. Society in general doesn't seem to care, so I guess those would be the biggest fears some people face. That leaves the little things. Things I didn't think about before my first hormone shot, like public restrooms. I can't go into the men's room because there might be some guy in there that may not take well to it (not to mention, I'm NOT a guy), and what if the women freak out when they see a trans woman walk in on their territory? I'm getting better at it, but I still get little pangs of anxiety about it.

What are some of your life goals?

I am going to school for computer sciences to become a programmer. As I mentioned, I like video games. That's what I want to do.

What would you most like the world to know about you?

I want the world to know that despite any problems the world throws at me, I am a fun girl. I like to laugh and smile. I like hanging out with my friends and meeting new people. I like to drink and have sex. I like watching bad movies and playing video games. I enjoy eating and making other people smile. But what's more important about this is why I enjoy these things; not because I am trans. Because I am human.

What would you tell someone just realizing they are trans?

Be honest with yourself. You only get one life. Make sure you are happy. Live life for yourself, not someone else.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Trans Art Project Interview: Venus DeMars

As mentioned in prior posts, I will document the progress and evolution of my project on this blog. I put together an "ice breaker" questionnaire to get conversations going between participants and I. I hope that these will also offer insight and connect those who follow this project with the participants. Below is the first questionnaire returned to me.

What was the name given to you by your parents?

Steven Grandell. However there's a story behind this. Neither of my parents expected a boy. This was before doctors had the ability to tell the sex of a child before birth. I was born in 1960. Teresa was the name they'd decided on. When I was born they had to scramble to decide on a boy's name. My dad hated his name, Gustave Adolf so my mom suggested Larry-Gus as a possibility. He hated it, still. He liked the name Steve, so they picked that. Ironically that name is now so distant from who I feel I is somewhat painful when I'm addressed by it. But it was a good name growing up and I respect my father's decision. I've often wondered about Teresa. How much different my life might have been if everything had gone the way my parents expected.

What is your chosen name?

Venus DeMars. It began as simply Venus, but the documentary of myself and my wife came out and the title became Venus of Mars. I adopted the de Mars as in Venus de Milo or Venus of Milo. So I am now Venus DeMars.

When/How did you first know you were trans?

I knew I was different from the age of 2 or 3 when I wanted to wear my my older sister's petticoat skirt. She thought I looked cute and wanted me to show our parents. I became afraid and would not go with her. So...I knew I was different, as well as understood an early version of feeling as if this was wrong.

How did this realization make you feel? 

As above, I immediately felt something was wrong with this feeling. That was reinforced as I came across other kids who displayed gender varinace. A girl from a few blocks away who came to play with us said she was actually a boy, but that her mom made her wear dresses. The other kids whispered in my ear that she was actually a girl, but we should go along with it so we could see under her dress. Her mom saw this and came to drag her away from us, scolding the entire group. There are other incidents like this. I also remember overhearing parents talking about another girl from down the block who insisted on wearing boy's underwear and pants instead of dresses. That was a troubling issue for her parents.

How would you describe your childhood/life before your transition?

Pretty normal on the outside. Inside I always had this nagging feeling that I should be something else...and became somewhat jealous of the girls I knew. But again I felt this was wrong so I worked very hard to suppress my feelings and did as much as I could to be as boy-like as possible.

Who were some of your role models then?

When I was 10 I saw Blue Angel with Marlene Dietrich on TV one afternoon. She immediately became a role model. She still is.

Who did you first tell?

My therapist, after a number of sessions attempting to discover why I might be dealing with depression.

What was their reaction?

Positive. He said I could be or do anything I wanted and was glad we'd discovered it. This was in the late 80's, however. Not much was known about transgenderism. The idea was that I would need to do a full transition and my wife and I would need to get a divorce. Laws at the time would have prevented us from staying married. Very few people were out as trans back then. There were no real trans role models to look to. I think my therapist was part of the GLBT community when I think back, but many people were closeted during that time, especially in professional settings, so he never let on about his own identity issues. I do believe now that he was probably gay. I was very lucky to have him as my therapist. I've had therapists since then.
One in the mid 90's was gay and out. He completely did NOT understand being trans. He even disbelieved it as a possibility. This was during our marriage counseling. He let his bias take over and dismissed out issues. I think he may have thought that I was actually gay. I've heard this from other people who believe that trans is just a variation of gay. They believe there are no real trans issues, only gay issues. It's kind of crazy, especially for a therapist. This was a common attitude throughout the 80's and early 90's. You really had to fight to define yourself as trans within the medical community.

Do you have any fears or concerns about "passing"?

Absolutely. Constantly. Still do, when on the road, touring. Or traveling overseas. This mostly revolves around bathroom use. As now I pass way too well to use the men's room, however it's still illegal for me to use the women's room. It could result in an arrest if I am confronted. Unisex or single stall bathrooms are best. I try to pass well enough as to not be confronted but it has happened. There was an argument between two guards in a New York museum because one had pointed me to the women's washroom and when I came out another guard was there. He confronted the other guard about allowing me to have used the ladies' room. This was just last year. I have to be constantly aware. Note, I am both genders. I have not have gone through reassignment surgery. My legal status is still male, though I am usually seen as female because of my hormone use and breasts.

Have you experienced any unkindness, or worse, from strangers in the community as a result of being identified as a trans individual?

Yes. Early on, especially. Lots of insults and confrontations from groups of youths or men. In pairs or groups, usually. Not so much from women, but on occasion. These were public comments questioning my gender, expressed loudly enough so that other people would turn around and look. As far as in the music industry, during the 90's and early 2000's I was never taken seriously because of my transgenderism. When interviewing with one New York music lawyer for possible label interest, I was directly told he couldn't see how he could help if I continued to be as I was on stage. Though he confided that he liked what I did very much, he just couldn't see any business advantage. He wouldn't represent us. This is one of the reasons I've been an indy musician for my entire career.

What is your profession?

Musician. My band is Venus DeMars & All The Pretty Horses. I am also a visual artist.

Can you describe your experience transitioning in the workplace?

As above, the difficulties with the music industry's attitude toward me in the 90's and early 2000's. We were about the only trans-fronted band around back then. Other bands had a trans-member on occasion, but not in the lead position. Not in Rock and Roll and not as out as I was at least. In many ways this gave me the freedom to be myself completely from day one. But it also hinder the advancement of my career in the traditional ways. I just learned to move forward on my own. The experience has made me who I am and I am glad for that.

Are you dating/partnered?

Married for 30 years now.

How did you meet?

Initially in high school, but we seriously dated after I'd started my first band when I was in my early 20's and married shortly after that.

Do your families know?

My wife's mom knew, as did my parents. I untangled my transgenderism five years after we'd been married and our marriage unusual occurrence.

Are they supportive?

They were once they understood. My wife's mom and my father have passed on. My mom is now dealing with memory issues, but still knows both of us. She's living in a memory care unit now.

What has been the most difficult part of transitioning?

For me, uniquely, it's the balancing I do between the sexes. I wish there was a legal term for who I am. I constantly have to educate custom officials when traveling and negotiate social situations, medical and legal situations. Being pulled over while driving, for example, can easily become an ordeal. It would take an enormous pressure off me to have a legal status as an in-between-genders individual.

What are some of your life goals?

To do as much as I can as an artist to make a difference in the world for everyone. Of course being a trans individual, my work comes from that perspective, but I've found if I make my humanity the center of my emotional place, I can reach beyond just the trans community. My work crosses all gender identity, sexual identity and racial barriers. Even political and religious barriers, often. I hope I can continue in this direction.

What would you most like the world to know about you?

My history.

What would you tell someone just realizing they are trans?

You have been given a gift.