Queer Identity is a survey on the subliminal thought processes I have endured as a bisexual man and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community while living in a world that revolves around heteronormativity. It focuses on my queer experiences of minority stress and the repercussions of the innate pressure I have had to follow feminine and masculine norms.
This series provides a space for me as a queer artist to interpret my own experiences on being Queer and how I choose to identify myself, developing these thoughts into physical manifestations through the use of sculpture. Humanoid and abstract forms react and interact with the mental health distress that is a direct result from a lack of queer support and representation. These shifting forms do not only record the transgression of the staggering effects anti-queer ideologies have had throughout time but also how they continue to evolve within me today.
Disordered, apprehension, self-loathing – these are a few of the words that begin to describe the very essence of the work presented here and they aim to open the discussion of how we can better the future for our LGBTQIA+ community.
Act V Scene 1 – Dressed to Suppress, 2020
Cardboard, textiles, paper, wire, acrylic paint, artists hair, candle wax, plaster, shoes
A Moment for Self-Reflection, 2020
Plaster, acrylic paint, and mirror shards
With a dramatize human figure dressed in custom clothes but with bleeding, hairy hands and a peeling scalp, Act III Scene 2 – Dressed to Suppress offers a deep metaphor into the internalized shame some queer children endure.
To analyze the properties of this piece, we’ll start with hands. They are dripping and blood and have hair growing directly from their palms. Regrettably, the bleeding hands could represent an immense level of pain and suffering one might endure while hiding the secret of their sexuality or true gender expression, but for myself it is purely metaphorically. The bleeding hands are why the piece is firstly known as Act III Scene 2.
‘And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond
Which keeps me pale!’
This is a scene form Macbeth when he is feeling so guilty for murdering King Duncan. Though the blood is meant to replicate a murder, it really conveys how severe his guilt is. It’s a moment when he realizes consequences may come from his actions and the invisible hand is referral to his desire to hide the feeling and thoughts of guilt.
This is directly linked to the hairy palms, which are a referral to an old white lie abstinent strict parents would tell their kids: if you masturbate, hair will grow on your palms and you will go blind. The human figure in this piece is looking down to their hand, and when mixing the hairy palms with Act III Scene 2, there is a representation of guilt from masturbation. Up on the face where their eyes would be, viewers will see this figure can see nothing but gay porn, sexualized men, grindr conversations, anonymous sex chat rooms, and a google inquiry that question if he is gay or not. This figure is literally blinded now and feeling such guilt from watching gay porn, a common occurrence in young queer individuals.
This idea of shame is what leads to the second part of the name, Dressed to Suppress. Despite feeling this gross and uncomfortable in ones own body during experiences like these, Queer individuals still must live their lives. They have to go to school, see their friends, etc, and that is when they must cover up their shame – in this case, they decide to wear a nice pair of dress pants with a laced top – and learn to suppress those feelings or else, like Macbeth, they may get caught for what they did. The figure dramatically disproportionate and grotesque as it is a physical manifestation of what the shame and guilt feel like. The pants themselves were made from a skirt that I turned into pants which highlights my subconscious alignment with gender norms - why couldn't he wear a skirt?
But no matter how well you may cover up how you’re feeling, you always think that your mind is gross and unnatural. This is why the humans scalp is peeling open and oozing with liquids. It reveals how gross they feel even beneath the surface.
This human figure is a plaster cast of my own body covered in shattered mirror shards. The piece is not only a literal reflection of myself but has been created as the ‘entry’ point of contact for visitors when they visit the exhibition. Though there is no clear reflection cast in the mirrors as they are angled in a series of directions, the out reached hand and calm body language of the figure represents a welcoming hand. This exhibit is meant to be a space of comfort to explore queer ideologies so it’s best that they feel welcome. I also find that when people have questions in the realm of LGBTQIA+ that I more often than not provide context or try to answer their questions to my best ability. The welcoming nature of the sculpture reflects my personality of being someone who is kind and hospitable.
The shattered complex is a link to my own perception of myself. I don’t think I feel ‘whole’ yet with my confidence in my sexuality and would love to be unapologetically queer one day. Some may even feel the sense of being 'broken' while queer. I think that this is important to note that even after years of being out one may still harbour feelings of reservation. The sharp mirrors do make the piece the feel a bit hostile in moments, referring to the dangers of bottling up any uncertainties, worries, or regret with ones queerness. It also creates this illusion of armour - something we as queer people may put up to keep ourselves safe.
The piece hopes to implore the visitors to also think about themselves. How do they fit in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum—are they a part of the community? Are they an ally? Do they know someone with similar or completely different experiences in this show? A Moment for Self- Reflection was created to start the dialogue of this exhibition and—once the exhibit space is surrounded by more of my work or other artists in a group exhibition on Self Identity—to reflect the surrounding artworks. This then begins to beg the question, can one person truly embody all of these experiences?