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“what does that say?”

May 12, 2013 at 3:22 am


It says: dissonance.

Here are the two colorways of the actual print, a green that’s somewhere between forest & olive, & a bright orange. It’s about 27.5″ x 12.5″, a large one. The below images link to the prints newly in the store!


So… why “dissonance” ?

This print springs directly out of drawing (in mid-summer 2012) all the letters for the “our complexity is the world” print (some process details; buy one!); and feeling just a little fed up with drawing so many lowercase letters in the same form; and my handwriting slipping into sketchiness when writing “dissonance”…


Then I realized that there was no need to pull those letters back into linear alignment, and that that was a word that I wanted to celebrate further in another print…

Late summer 2012 found me sitting on a rock on Conanicut, above the waves, mostly naked (as friends & I were a lot last summer), drawing it in my sketchbook:

sketchbook balanced on knees of bare legs on a picnic blanket, with the word "dissonance" partly written on the open page

(Here’s past process notes from some color decisions, and some color testing and weird-overlap-printing. More process shots from printing are below; hover over them for details.)


“Sooooo….. uh. Why dissonance?”

The application of this word to trans stuff or gender issues originates with the awesome writer and scientist Julia Serano, in her book Whipping Girl:

gender dissonance:
A form of cognitive dissonance experienced by trans people due to a misalignment of their subconscious and physical sexes. Gender dissonance differs somewhat from the psychiatric term “gender dysphoria,” which typically conflates this cognitive dissonance regarding one’s sex with the mental stresses that arise from societal pressure to conform to gender norms.

When I was first reading about trans stuff, Whipping Girl (which I highly recommend), was really important to me, not least because of finding Serano’s definition quoted above. Her extended explication of her use of the word “dissonance” gave me a handle on the way I felt about my body, which I had had no words for before. I had felt that way pretty much all the time since my early teenage-hood, and, partly because of having no words for it, had assumed all women felt the same way about their bodies.

In the couple of years since first reading that, the word “dissonance” has continued to be super relevant to my existence. As time has gone on, through conversations and meeting people and the internet and witnessing the multifariousness of the possibilities of gendered existence in the world, I’ve relaxed some of my harsh demands on my own gendered existence… I’ve allowed myself to be a person who has a complicated gender & complicated body, and I’ve complicated that gender & body for myself further… and come to embrace the ambiguity and positivity that come along with the word “dissonance”.


It’s more useful for wrapping around my gender or body feelings than the commonly used term “dysphoria” — which is all medicalized, seems decisively negative, and makes you feel like there’s something “wrong” with you. Dissonance is originally a word for talking about sound or music, it’s the opposite of “consonance”, which is “things sounding similar” or “things in harmony” — but neither consonance or dissonance are necessarily good or bad, they’re just descriptions of two states of existing or relating.

Sometimes dissonance can be really incomprehensible, confusing, and make you feel unbalanced & weird, when two notes are not in tune or two frequencies are not quite lining up & there are weird noises that you think you might be imagining…


BUT when you listen carefully it might also sound pretty awesome and interesting, and more complicated than just some Mozart or whatever, and there’s a lot to hear there that you might not have listened for if everything had been all sounding-good to start with…


BUT even if you’re making this music yourself, on purpose, cause you like it, it might still be hard or painful to listen to… BUT you feel compelled to make it and/or other music is just boring and/or it’s the only thing you’re interested in and/or you don’t know how to make any other kinds of sounds…


SO you keep making it even though it feels weird sometimes. Or, all the time. Or rather, it feels TOTALLY WEIRD and TOTALLY AWESOME at the same time, or so closely alternating / simultaneous that you can’t actually tell how you feel about it. Even figuring that out is confusing & takes up a lot of your mental energy, but ultimately it’s worth it cause you don’t really know another way to be… you don’t have a choice. OR maybe you do — the “born that way” doctrine is kind of obnoxious & determinist, after all, and you are indeed making a choice — as this guy has said, your choice is to be here with us.


So yeah, DISSONANCE. All right.

“ink and knife”-native letters

May 10, 2013 at 1:11 pm


How did I not write anything at all about this project yet on this bloggy? I think it was because I was ***way way way behind schedule*** getting it done, so didn’t have any time to make process posts along the way. Then afterwards I got super wrapped up in organizing a bunch of stuff for a month of non-assimilationist Pride events here in Providence. So it goes!


I made this print last summer, for a print portfolio project organized by the amazing political artist and potter Meredith Stern. The portfolio is called “This Is An Emergency!” and is focused on reproductive & gender justice. Meredith has been doing presentations about the project (and her work) around the country, as well as doing the logistics/promotion to get institutions and libraries to buy copies of the portfolio, which is super awesome cause a) those institutions have these radical prints, and b) it’s pretty great that some of my work is in the collection of institutions all over the place.

You can buy the purple-gold-orange colorway of this print here, and I also made two new colorways because I was running out of the first one; blue-silver-green (sparkly) and tan-gray-red (not sparkly). They are $20 — cheap! Shipping is $6 or I’ll deliver in Providence or you can pick it up. Get it, put it on your wall, use it to help tell your cis friends about what it means that you’re trans, to help explain to your parents why racial profiling is dehumanizing, or to help remind your students that their values are worth hanging on to even if they don’t coincide with the values of the academic institution… anyways, I made it for you.

complexity_blue_246 complexity_gray_245

The full text is at the bottom of this post.

I spent a while brainstorming and writing the text for this print (and trying to figure out how to make the text more concise, but avoid “soundbites”/tumblr-esque-ness… also thinking about representation of human beings & once again deciding to avoid it)…


…and then time hit me & I realized that I needed to make the simplest possible print, alignment- and printing-time-wise… but how to make a “simple” print about “complexity”? Plus I wanted it to look super cool (the classic downfall, I know). I decided to make basically the whole “background” of the print a giant rainbow roll of *ink*, and leave the letters the color of the paper.

First step: draw out the text how I wanted it to read (thinking about “reading” vs “seeing” & how they work together), not getting it perfect but just enough to ink over:


Then: inking. This was done on wet media mylar (“prepared mylar”), using a nib pen, brushes to fill in the background, and an Olfa razorknife to scratch unwanted ink away. Each of these steps requires some time for ink to dry, and is contingent on working your way across the surface in one direction at a time, so you don’t smear the wet ink you’ve just put down. I also wear thin cotton gloves, with the thumb & first two fingers cut off the dominant hand, to protect the plastic from the grease on my hands. Okay here goes! Watch the lower-case “g”s…

1. outline the letters & begin to fill in their smallest concavities, with the pen:


2. fill in the spaces between the letters with a small brush:


3. fill in the ink on one side of the letters with the brush:


4. …and then fill in the final gap:


5: now with the back of the point of the Olfa knife, fix any places where you blobbed over the line, clean up the inside part of the “e”, “a”, “o”, etc, square off the corners and ends of the letters (check out those “g”s), and generally sharpen it all up:


Was this simple? Kind of. Did it take a hell of a long time? YES. I’m terrible at this time thing.

But that aside… I really like working this way because it produces letters that are native to the materials I’m using to create them. The act of my hands using specific tools to make them is what gives the letters their shape — not just aesthetic decisions in a vacuum. It was intriguing to make a couple different sizes of the same letters, and a vertical and slanted set (not sure if “roman” and “italic” apply here), and to see how they all came out differently… Of course, there’s an alternate set of letterforms created by “drawing the same letters” but with ink as the *positive* instead of the negative — just as cutting “the same” letters negatively or positively out of rubylith results in different forms. Someday! actual usable computer fonts will come out of all this work… maybe?

Here’s a cool photo Pam Murray took to show the metallic ink I used to print it, and the resolution of the letters:


And I wanted to include one quick set of images to answer the question “But how did you do the rainbow roll at an angle?”

A. Shoot the transparency on the screen at an angle!

1. transparency at an angle, and a “linear blob” of different colors of ink on the screen:


2. a couple of prints into the run, the rainbow roll has smoothed out (you can see how the paper is aligned on the table at an angle as well):


3. epic squeegee (don’t drop it):


One last note about this portfolio format for political art work generation and distribution — it rules!

Meredith is part of Just Seeds, a radical artists’ collective, and though this portfolio was not a formal Just Seeds project, they’ve used the same model a number of times: “a group of artists each make a print about an issue, possibly collaborating with organizations or mentors, then those prints are collected into a portfolio which is both distributed to organizations to sell/use/display, and can be shown as a thematic exhibit and be the occasion for discussions and an impetus for activism”. It’s a pretty bad-ass method for disseminating political art outside of the big-money art market, for getting little-known artists (like myself) some wider distribution and possibly recognition, and for providing art to political organizations.

It seems like something that should happen as widely as possible. If you know of an issue in your town or area that could use a bunch of prints made about it, grab this idea & run with it! Contact Meredith through her website to ask her questions about the process… She has worked really hard to make the whole project happen, and to promote it & make it successful, but it now has a momentum of its own: a young woman came up to where I was tabling at the art sale last weekend with Sam Merritt, who also made a print for the portfolio and was displaying it in front of our table, and asked her “Is that print in that, uh, reproductive rights collection? That was exhibited at my college last month — people were lining up to see it, it was a great event, everybody loved it!”


Full text of the poster:

so you’re not comfortable with our complexity?

you pull us over, lights flashing
you call us back to the counter
you don’t understand why we have to do that to our bodies
you demand picture ID, proof of residence, a letter from our therapist, citizenship documents, tax returns, body mass index, a calm rational voice, coherent gender presentation, formal english grammar, insurance card, deference

and it even sounds friendly when you say, “come on, baby, would it be so hard to give me a smile?”

and we almost do it
so you’ll let us exist safely in the world you offer

but — your systems of control are not safety
they will never be a place to live

so we leave them behind
we run from them headlong, heaving homemade bombs back over our shoulders into the gated compound, waiting for the explosions
we rip them, piece by piece, excruciatingly slowly, from their nesting places within our own hearts and stagger away wounded, barely alive
the door of the bus closes with a soft noise and we pull our knees to our chests

our demands are simple, contradictory, impossible, necessary
you tell us the world has no space for our complexity

yet we live right here, in dissonance & beauty
we’re not comfortable
yeah, we might be dangerous
our long-term effects are definitely unknown

our complexity is the world

In re. the art sale: here I am, sleep deprived & coffee fueled, in a shirt that is my favorite colors, in need of a haircut, gesticulating about something I don’t remember but which seems entertaining, standing outside with Sam and a girl I don’t know, under a nice sign that says “QUEERS!” — that’s good, right?


queers edition // art sale today!

May 4, 2013 at 2:06 am

Via grainy cellphone camera, the finished colorways of the QUEERS! editions. As seen in progress here and decision-making process discussed here. Finally done, after being promised / procrastinated on for two+ years!


I’ll be at the RISD Alumni Art Sale ***today***, Saturday May 4th (10a-4p, Benefit St. & Waterman St. in Providence) with these brand new guys, the new-ish “dissonance” script-font prints that were in the show, the new-ish colorways of the “complexity” manifesto print (and a couple copies of this purple/orange/gold one), the Recycle-A-Bike prints, with their cool silkscreen duotone, that I finished last year but somehow haven’t posted a completed image of until now….. and lots of other stuff! Tabling with Sam Merritt of Double Vision Embroidery who is super cool.

We’ll be accepting “credit cards” via a borrowed “mobile digital device” — your favorite Luddite screenprinting grandpa dips a toe gingerly into the 21st century…


Okay gotta run & finish the last stuff! See you soon! Wish me luck with sleepin’ tonight!

“practical tools for shifting reality” – snapshots & statement

February 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm


The show is up! & I am on to the next projects (and of course finishing the things that I didn’t have time to complete for the show itself!). Here is an assortment of snapshot-based documentation, plus the artist statement — written the night before the opening, but based on ideas that have been rumbling around for a couple years now, as usual.



Practical Tools for Shifting Reality
artist statement

I was a nearsighted, nerdy, artistic, attention-hungry, weird little kid: fascinated by printed objects around me, terrified of losing unique things (and pretty much everything, even trash, fell into this category), captivated by odd dreams of creating my own brand of notebooks, and compelled to learn to draw horses realistically. The horses thing kind of faded away (for the better, probably), and I long ago stopped collecting boogers & dust balls (for the better, definitely), but the rest of it remained — along with all the drawing practice I had done, and the terror of loss — as a great recipe for becoming a meticulous maker of screenprinted posters.


Additionally, I was a boyish kid who didn’t really understand why she couldn’t be in the Boy Scouts, have short hair like her brothers, or be called “Keith” on a regular basis. In recent years, as I realized that I didn’t actually have to be “a girl”, and became aware of the validity and realness of my gender variance, I worried that much and maybe all of my single-minded, perfectionist, intense-work-ethic art- & poster-making had been born from the combination of the attention-hungry kid with the teenage girl who didn’t identify at all with her perceptible, supposedly “girl” body. This person figured out that if they could draw the most complicated drawings, make them into neat-looking screenprints, and distribute them, that people would pay more attention to the images than to the physicality of the human behind them…



This tactic worked for almost a decade; it was a good one! But it stopped working when I realized I had the chance to figure out an embodiment and a physical presence that would potentially feel more true to myself. The fact that the posters were no longer the point of my life revealed the fact that they had been: that much of my identity and even my physical presence in the world was wrapped up in the work I had made. For a long while after that, when I was working on art, it felt like I was actively avoiding having a gendered body — a continuation, perhaps, of the avoidance/distraction/dazzle-camouflage scenario that I had been constructing for so many years.



At the same time, I knew that that was not the only purpose my work had served. As a poster-maker with my art practice founded in my community of friends, I knew that screenprinted posters & prints, distributed as limited multiples, become important objects to other humans, and carry strong associations for everybody whose lives they touch: “that was the gallery opening where my partner and I first kissed”, “that was the last show in our house before we got evicted”, “that was my favorite building before they tore it down”, “that poster was above our kitchen sink for six years, I looked at it every day…”

These printed objects hold power for creating our lives & realities, for piecing our stories together, for sharing them with each other, based on memory, imagination, delight, the irrational, the impossible, the failed & beautiful. Shared self-made graphics allow our lives to be located outside of a dominant or market-logic paradigm, through a visual language that we teach each other & make up together as we go along. I realized that I wanted to turn this power towards furthering validity for trans, queer, and gender-variant existences like mine — towards making complexity visible, and by showing what I saw of it, to create chances for further complexity in the world.



I wanted to put visual tools in the hands of others like myself, who might occasionally need a reminder that they are real, when from many sides they are told that their existences are impossible. I also wanted to get to do more of the practices that are the most engaging & interesting for me — drawing, first of all, and also printing, but not printing epic, grueling editions (which I do enough of already): “fun printing.”

So, the work brought together in the gallery here is a beginning stab at both those projects. There are lots of hand-drawn words & letterforms, which hopefully reveal my discovery & delight in the drawing of them as well as the self-imposed limits (and also delights!) of following a system, creating a graphic space that is coherent and includes weirdness, and learning deeply from drawing things seen in the world around me.



The “word prints” (the ones in white frames, two of which are in the photos below) are a group in which there are no mistakes. Each one is different; every print that gets made is part of the continuing whole, and any strange or unexpected color layer simply presents a challenge to figure out what the next layer and color on that print will be, and/or a (parallel) challenge to understand the existing combination as complete and unified.



All of this work involves interference between patterns, scales & layers, as well as colors and images overlapping by chance and by intention. Language as action, graphics as tools, words as accumulated structures. Printed things as evidence of thought, of having an idea & making it real & sharing it with the people around you, providing them yet another piece of structural existence to build their own selves with. The dissonant territory between “reading” and “looking”, between up close & from across the room, between what we can see & what we can’t see. Creating reality, creating our bodies and existences, and the world around us, through strategic and/or magical language and significant objects — as well as through improvisation, accident, making do with what is there, making it into something else, making it into what we want to see in the world…

February 1, 2013



[from the wall with the letterform drawings on index cards, this text says: “To wrap something in stories rather than in theory is to let words work at its strangeness rather than at its credibility. — Robin Evans, Translations From Drawing to Building” … I couldn’t resist the (un-posed) reflection of a gallery visitor reading the hanky tags near the opposite wall…]


[I drew & printed the bandanas — the color is ink, the white lines are negative space, Liz Novak and I hemmed them all on the sewing machine! Somewhat impulsively, in the middle of a late night, I sent some emails asking the people who had requested a specific color how they wear their hanky (or hankies), what color(s), and why… It soon became clear that those statements would be a really crucial part of the project, and that the accumulation of different colors of hankies and of written statements of visible desires, attached to these significant, coded, yet potentially infinitely varying objects, is its own project and will probably go on for a while… If you’d like to contribute thoughts about how & why you wear a hanky, please get in touch!]


[“…starting the revolution by publicly announcing the object of your desire, and asking in public who desires you…” this Guy Hocquenghem quote was on the wall of hankies/bandanas.]





[this Robert Venturi quote has been kicking around on the bulletin boards in my room for about four years… I think I’ve finally made some of the work that can properly have this text displayed alongside it, in my general realm of “thinking about bodies like thinking about buildings”, and possibly even “thinking about words like thinking about bodies”…]


[A friend bought this little print, which is a rectangle cut from a chaotic test print that I have been printing on since 2010 or earlier… the orange curlicue & blue-gray rectangles are elements of a test from when Meg Turner was printing this poster in my studio a couple of years ago!]

[The “our complexity is the world” print, originally made for this portfolio, serves as the textual & conceptual backbone of all the work in this show, I hope…]

[below, a shot from while I was installing… (if you haven’t, please read Mark Aguhar’s blog.) These are re-prints of the stickers that Meg Powers & other friends & I made this summer; they’ve now been Risographed by Walker Mettling (and look beautiful but the ink is smudgy, so they don’t make great stickers as such — it was experimental anyways!)… BUT look how nice & serious & real things look when they are behind a little sheet of glass!]


I draw jasper johns paintings in the brown paper sketchbook

December 31, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Emmy Bright makes beautiful sketchbooks; I have one of them, and it’s basically my new favorite thing. I got some soft white & gray colored pencils, plus regular pencil, plus a 3B (that’s 3 degrees of soft, folks!) pencil; it was a funny scene of me sticking various pencils in & out of various pockets / my mouth, and also trying to find a place in the Phila. Art Museum to surreptitiously sharpen them all with a little knife which is DEFINITELY not allowed in there.

Whenever I find myself wanting to look more intensively at a specific thing, I know I need to draw it… buildings, people, anything. Often this is almost a moment of resentment, “Okay, I give in, this painting keeps pulling me back to look at it, I guess I will have to draw it.” You can glance over some art in the chaos of a gallery with people all around & be like “whoa that’s neat”, but when you draw it you get to really look at it & see how it’s put together.

My question here was, “What is Jasper Johns doing in these things besides using all these different tones/thicknesses of gray paint, cause he’s doing something compositionally, and he knows what he’s doing, he’s not just slopping paint around (though of course he’s also doing that).” …and of course the proportions & dimensions of all of them are really interesting, once you draw it & figure out what’s going on, as much as is possible standing up in an art museum trying to balance 5 pencils & an eraser…

At some point I’ll make a long how-to post about composition, the golden section, & proportional geometry stuff — but not today, I need to draw some more! and there are some things happening cause it’s new year’s. aahh! oh yeah, happy new year!

If you’re in or anywhere near Philadelphia (Providence counts!), please go see Dancing Around The Bride, the amazing show* where I saw & drew these paintings.

I would recommend it highly to anybody interested in graphic scores, dance, chance, chess, wordgames, playful nerds, gays, collage/combination/everyday objects in art, letterforms, painting, silkscreen, music, installation sound experiences, hissing whisper power voice, gray tones, friends/artists/lovers riffing off each other over the course of 50 years, etc. It’s free on the first Sunday of January (the 6th), and ends on January 21st! Go go go! Carpool! Super crucial & awesome.

Unrelatedly (well, maybe relatedly?) here’s some of what I’ve been working on recently which is stuff for my upcoming show in February… super excited about these little guys… okay back to drawing!

* My one issue with the show was that THEY SAID NOTHING about any of the artists being in actual romantic relationships with each other, in any of the printed literature or wall text! The curators were super into the fact that “ooooh, they were all so interconnected” but mention *nothing* about any of their sexualities even once (though they do talk about Duchamp’s wife a little bit). They write that Johns & Rauschenberg “met in 1954 and remained close until 1961” and mention that Cage “first met Cunningham in 1938 and later became his partner”, with no clarification of what kind of partner… but really? Does gay exist? Not according to these curators I guess… or only in code…

This is sad to me because I think about young queer people (including myself, hey!) looking for some model of gay existence that isn’t “the sad teen who is bullied and lonely”, and look! here are four extremely successful & lauded individuals who are all gay, and you’re making an art show that’s all about their relationships, and you maintain complete silence about their sexualities. Really?

“master printer” / collaboration

July 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm

I spent the past week or so working with Noel Puello (friend, artist, fashion designer, New Urban Arts alum, and future student at MassArt!) on making a super-epic, four-layer, 12-color collaborative screenprint.

We made this print to fundraise for Noel’s college expenses: zig has a gap of about $8000 to cover for their first year of art school at MassArt. Read more, see more pictures, buy a print ($30-$100+ sliding scale), or donate just a couple of bucks, right here: http://noelpuello.net !!!

This was a whirlwind project:

  • about two weeks ago, we decided together on a size for the poster, based on paper I had around the studio
  • I gave Noel some wet media mylar (transparent plastic that’s been treated to allow it to accept ink & markers) and we talked about different layers & uses of color, looking at examples around the house
  • Noel went to the store & got some black paint markers (the easiest way to create solid black on plastic)
  • Noel flew to DC for a six-day national youth student leader conference and got about four hours of sleep every night and thought about the poster
  • Noel came back to Providence and made most of the transparencies for the print in one day (!)
  • we met up that evening & talked about rubylith and what text should go on the poster, organized the transparencies, talked about colors and added a rubylith “background” layer

  • by the next day, Noel had decided on the text, we finished the first layer transparency, shot the first screen, & mixed ink colors
  • two days later, Noel mixed the colors for the first & second layers, & we printed those layers on about 75 prints, with the help of CJ Jimenez…

  • the next day Noel mixed all the rest of the colors, and we printed the last two layers, including a final layer with glitter, with the help of Anne Reinhardt who also made us all an amazing dinner that we ate after midnight…

  • that was a very late night, but then we were done! BAM!

It was super interesting to work with a less-experienced screenprinter to help them realize their vision, as opposed to creating or setting out my own vision — I was definitely in the realm of “master printer assisting an artist” as opposed to “artist-printmaker” on this one. I also wasn’t in the realm of “teacher”, because I wasn’t “teaching” Noel a process that zig could then reproduce on zig’s own — rather, we had a joint goal: to create something excellent together.

In experiences that I’ve categorized as “teaching”, I’ve often stepped back and stopped myself from imposing my aesthetic opinion on the scenario, to let the learner follow a course I might not agree with. In this case, I was happy to have the occasional possibility to step in and offer a thought or opinion that I might shy away from talking about with someone who didn’t feel like as much of a creative peer as Noel does.

I was so psyched to work with a friend who was excited about learning and open to my ideas, but confident in the validity of their own vision & aesthetic sense as well. Noel & I were working together to do what was needed to make a beautiful and meaningful object. It’s been really fascinating to make something that looks nothing like anything I would have come up with out of my own imagination — but to still be extremely proud of what we made, and to feel a strong sense of my own artistic identity with it……

You think you’re a grownup & have felt or thought all there is to think & feel, but then there are these new complexities of feeling & understanding that come up, all the time, and demand to be paid attention to & not get generalized into prior experiences. !!!!

Buio stole my leopard-print bandana that I made (by ripping up a pair of pants I found in the trash) for the Feral Summer queer dance party last Friday!

but you just can’t be mad at a person-face cat.

ephemera / evidence

June 20, 2012 at 6:30 am

I think Alison took these pictures…

This was us interpolating ourselves into the Pride parade here this past Saturday. I drew/painted and built two giant banners (and got them across town) in like 4 hours the afternoon before the parade? (That question mark signifies my disbelief that this actually happened.) There was awesome help from Christiane, Chris G, Olivia, Nathan, Alison, Katie, Rowan, & more. The other big banner said “Free CeCe“. I also drew & painted the ACT UP banner that you can see obscuredly in the background of both photos…

Featured in these photos are the awesome nitili, kidbijou, and patchthatsweater!

Also, Meg Powers & I made these stickers, with a bunch of slogan inspiration from other friends… Meg drew the drippy triangles & the grody tongue-&-fingers combo, I drew allll the letters! We passed them out during the parade, people really liked “Stonewall didn’t have sponsors” but were somehow not as into “Gay END Marriage!”

(downloadable 400dpi print version)

“get em, print em on sticker paper, cut em up, destroy the souls of your fellow townspeople”

Here’s what my friend & colleague newspaper publisher Jacob P. Berendes has to say about witnessing your work become garbage, in this recent interview in the Providence Phoenix:

It’s stuff like seeing it as trash blowing down the street. It was raining one time and I saw somebody use it as a hat. Really it’s nice to see your project be just another thing in the world, you know?

[hey, to participate in this process, you can SUBSCRIBE to Mothers News, the monthly paper that Jacob creates!]

(downloadable 400dpi print version)

There’s something to be written about making things that are evidence of our existences in the world, that just go into the world & become part of it & our lives are built out of and around them. I’m pretty sure that’s the role my posters & prints have always played since I started making poster-type images maybe 17 years ago. (The image I am tracing this back to can be seen at the bottom of this post. 1995! Senior year of high school! Aaahhh!)

I don’t know what to say about it exactly. I LOVE making things that become objects in the world, it’s deeply important to me to see things I’ve made become integral to people’s understandings of themselves, it’s always a privilege and an honor. More recently, though, that feeling is surrounded & hemmed in by serious frustration about not being able to set time aside to make art that might not have a literal “meaning”, always feeling like my art has to have a meaning for other people. I am pretty sure that I’m discounting my own existence and *forcing* things into meaningfulness for others because of the satisfaction that comes when other people tell me that something I made means a lot to them.

And obviously, every object has a meaning whether the creator intends it to or not, so every artist must take on the responsibility of being a “meaning-maker” rather than just an “image-maker” (differentiation thanks to Chicava HoneyChild, in this good interview about race in performance!). Can I reconcile the pride I do truly have in making images & graphics that people identify with strongly, that create important evidence of my & my friends’ precarious reality in the world… with my own need to push myself to make art that is seriously personal, looking inward & helping me figure stuff out, rather than make art that looks outward and fills a need of my community?

… I know that the art I make that is personal will have meanings for other people too, and be useful to them… and that the outward-facing art I’ve made has also been deeply personally indicative & fruitful. There’s no escaping making meaning, there’s no escaping making something that reflects myself. I just have to not be scared to approach it, to not set it aside as impossible, to let myself work on it every day, to not hold myself to untouchable standards on it…

This was a pencil sketch that I made of me & all my friends (in some weird russian context), I photocopied it for them and they loved it. One of them colored it in. About a year ago it showed up on facebook……!

commemorate a riot with me

June 14, 2012 at 4:15 am

I wrote a bunch of stuff about why I have been organizing around queer issues & to build queer community here in Providence, but that writing got erased, which is okay, it was important but it wasn’t well-articulated enough yet!

(photo by the amazing Jori Ketten)

The brief version (in run-on sentences, sorry mom!) is that I am working hard with others to create/assemble/coalesce a queer community here, and to spread awareness of queer & trans existences and the languages & concepts that make space for those existences, so that trans & queer people in Providence don’t have to think: “all the trans people I’ve known have moved away” or “I am the only person I know using a pronoun that wasn’t assigned to me at birth” or “it’s going to be impossible to get people to understand me as male & to use the right language for me” … all of which were things I thought frequently three-and-a-half years ago. Not that it’s perfect here now… but we’ve made huge progress & have really built something real. There are still a bunch of things I worry & stress about around my existence as a queer trans guy… but those worries aren’t that I am alone in my queerness here — that has truly changed.

At this tumblr: queerlilrhody.tumblr.com and below, you can find the giant roster of events that a loose group of queers here (including me) has been working to put together for June of 2012! We’re commemorating the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots not by saluting our corporate sponsors & buying a lot of lite beer, but with conversations, celebrating our creativity, working on oppression, dealing with difficult stuff, & figuring out the next steps forward. Oh, and abolishing prisons & ending the state institution of marriage altogether? Those are on the way. ;)

… and yes, this organizing work is also my “real work”.

Thursday June 14: 6pm, 186 Carpenter St.

“Liquid Sky” screening: queer/lesbian/trans sci-fi film set in 1980s New York City. A conversation about femme visibility will follow the film. Trigger warning: this film contains graphic depictions of sexual violence

Friday June 15: 4:30pm, Bank of America building, Kennedy Plaza.
Join Jobs With Justice & other local organizations to address Bank of America’s foreclosures in Providence. BoA is one of the sponsors of the “Pride” parade & festival — as queers, we’ll be there to denounce them for “supporting” “the LGBT community” when it’s fun & visible, but then with their other hand, undermining our lives and those of our neighbors in our communities.

Friday June 15: 5:30pm, Kennedy Plaza side of Burnside Park downtown.
Queertical Mass – Circus on Wheels! Join us on a ride where we can celebrate the strength and power of riding together without the need to “dominate the roads.” An accessible, fun bike ride for everyone! CIRCUS theme!

Friday June 15: 7:30pm, Libertalia Automous Space, 280 Broadway.
“HOMOTOPIA” screening. “Love revolution, not state delusion! Race, gender, ability, & desire are reworked through an anti-colonial queer struggle creating a visual rhythm of melancholic utopianism”

Saturday June 16: 10pm-2am, AS220, 115 Empire St.
FUCHSIA IS NOW #7 presents SMEAR CHAMPAGNE: “a killer and amazing anti-corporate Stonewall commemoration party: voguing, fashion show, homemade BMI/ASCAP-free beats and so much birthday cake and yelling!” All ages / anti-corporate / anti-assimilation queer [dance] party, basement zone transported to downtown for one night. $1-5

Saturday June 16: 9pm-1am, Mathewson St Church, 134 Mathewson St. downtown.
Youth Pride Inc. Pride Night Dance Party! Free, open to ages 13-23, alcohol- & drug-free, food & refreshments provided.

every Sunday: 6-8 pm, Libertalia Autonomous Space.
Rhode Island Anti-Sexism League meeting

Sunday June 17: 7pm, AS220.
“Heart Breaks Open” screening. A feature film which recasts biblical narratives around HIV positivity, transmasculinity, drag and the sisters of perpetual indulgence. $1-5 donation

every Tuesday: 5pm-6pm: BroadMed Building, 557 Broad St, enter from the parking lot.
ACT UP RI – Open Meetings. AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power: fighting for healthcare, justice, and to end AIDS locally & worldwide.

Wednesday June 20: 6-8pm, Location TBA.
Queer prisoner letter writing! Meet and talk about the prison-industrial complex as related to queer lives & politics, connect with prisoners and write initial letters to them.

Thursday June 21: 8pm, Libertalia Autonomous Space.
Unite & Fight! a Forum on Queer Liberation & Feminism. Rhode Island Anti-Sexism League & allied organizers present a panel & discussion about historical and future shared struggles of queer people and women against sexism, heterosexism, transphobia and homophobia… and thinking about what a queer anti-sexist grassroots organizing community can do here & now. Join us!

(Queer Liberation and Class Struggle reading group, postponed to sometime later this month! Details TBA. email chrisgang@gmail.com for more info.)

Friday June 22: 7:30pm, Libertalia Autonomous Space.
“Madame Satã” screening: a film based on the life of infamous Brazilian drag performer & outlaw João Francisco dos Santos. Discussion will follow on homosexuality & masculinity in the Portuguese-speaking world.

Sunday June 24: 11am to 6pm,
Queer Farm Day at Scratch Farm in Cranston, with potluck lunch & gender-variant- & body-positive swimming at 1pm. Come for all or part of the day, help harvest & spend time in safer queer rural sanctuary space with queers & allies! email secretdoorprojects@gmail.com for more info & directions.

Thursday June 28:

Thursday June 28: 7pm, New Urban Arts, 705 Westminster St.
“Queerly Present” evidence of queer lives in Providence: readings, spoken word, performance, music, etc.

Friday June 29: 7:30 pm, Libertalia Autonomous Space.
“The Raspberry Reich” screening, a pornographic, violent & satirical Bruce LaBruce film that explores the ‘innate radical potential of homosexual expression’. Followed by discussion about queer resistance and violence.

Friday June 29: 8pm, 95 Empire Black Box, 95 Empire St.
“How To Be A Lesbian In 10 Days or Less” + “You Just Need A Little Lipstick”: ‘motivational speaker’ performance, and new work in progress, by Providence theater-maker Leigh Hendrix. $5

Saturday June 30: 2-4pm, Libertalia Autonomous Space.
AIDS and gentrification reading group. More details TBA.

YESSSSSSSSS see ya in the streets!

heretical certainties

June 8, 2012 at 4:28 am

I have some work in a really neat print portfolio put together & printed by Erik Ruin, a friend & political graphic artist who now lives in Providence! The portfolio release show is tonight, Friday June 8th, 7-late at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, featuring performances by a bunch of bands including Katrina & Julia’s band Groke, my housemate Work/Death, and the Assembly of Light choir (Providence’s neo-spiritual ladies’ rock/metal vocal performance group which includes the awesome artist/scientist/singer/general-renaissance-person Tatyana Yanishevsky), and more!

Come to that if you can, check out the work & the music, it should be great! Here’s the successful kickstarter page for the portfolio project, with more info about it.

My drawing is about Joan of Arc, who I’ve felt really close to since I was a little kid, in many ways that aren’t totally explainable and some that are (and some that have only become clear over time). Making this drawing, I followed my instincts & desires for it, and tried not to over-rationalize it or to demand much logic of myself… I wanted to make an emotional thing, not a “poster”. Not that a poster can’t be emotional, but… I needed to frame the endeavor differently for my own purposes.

It was really nice to get to make a pencil drawing as a “final” object — as opposed to having to turn it into a print myself. It was also really interesting to draw a person, since I rarely draw people (it’s possible that I have been avoiding drawing people for years!!??). Even though I was drawing from a photograph (this is Renee Jeanne Falconetti in the 1928 “Passion of Joan of Arc“, by Carl Theodor Dreyer, a seminal movie for me when I saw it in 1998 or so), it felt like I was drawing an actual person, and then at times it felt like I was drawing myself, and I felt like I was very bad at it, or very naive, but I proceeded with confidence and delight, and then I felt like I was my (confident/naive) high school self, specifically at a certain stretch of time when I was drawing a self-portrait in 10th or 11th grade, which I have a distinct memory of and which I know is a drawing in which I look extremely masculine, and I remember at 15-16 years old being both stranged-out by that visible masculinity as well as satisfied by my drawing of myself… so, making this drawing was a very strange & evocative time, and that’s all I am gonna say about that!

In the two images above, I’m tracing the long text onto the paper over a lightbox (thanks Will K. for the gift of that very useful tool!). Visible here are, on the left, the main drawing of Falconetti, in progress… under/around her eyes, the initial drawing of her that I started on the other side of the paper and then abandoned as too crappy (classic style!)… at the bottom, Joan’s signature… to the lower right, the printed-out text I am tracing from (thanks to the HPLHS for the very authentic Oldstyle font!)… and down to the middle of the page or so, my hand-traced 11.5-point serif letters.

Tracing these letters was totally grueling and a hassle, but they look sooooo goooood! Most of the hassle was using a 2B (soft/dark) pencil lead because I wanted the letters really dark to contrast with the H (hard/light) lead that I used in most of the rest of the drawing (this contrast can be seen clearly in the first image in this post). With the architect’s-lead-pointer sharpener that I use, you can get a very sharp point, but with a lead that soft, the point dulls fast, and the tip breaks off about every third time you sharpen it. But it got done! There are few things I love more than turning a uniform computer font into a destroyed hand-drawn font…

The final print! Printed on the offset by Erik Ruin. If you want to get a copy of this and the rest of the portfolio, 12 other images of heretics & witches, email him: erikruin (a) gmail.com.

Here’s what I wrote about the drawing / myself / Joan, for the portfolio:

Of all the heresies for which Joan of Arc was tried, refusing to wear “woman’s dress” was the one that her ‘Assessors’ came back to again and again, over the course of their lengthy questioning — and it was the charge for which they eventually convicted and executed her. The trial transcripts reveal Joan’s impressive resolve and spiritual conviction during the harsh rhythm of her inquisition. For me, as a person who spent much of my life under pressure to dress and look “more feminine”, reading and re-reading those documents is a difficult empathetic and vicarious experience. The quote in my drawing is unedited: I didn’t want to present just the parts of her testimony that resonate with my experience, but also her religious zeal & dedication to her God.

The signature in the drawing is the actual Joan of Arc’s signature… and the text is from p.87 of the T. Douglas Murray version of the trial transcripts, which you can look at part of right here on the internet.

There’s a lot more to write about how I think & feel about her, and my ongoing & always-developing relationship to women dressed as men, “women warriors”, “passing women”, etc….. but it’s gonna have to wait for later! For now just read these two awesome young adult books, The Blue Sword and Alanna… *then* we can talk about women warriors.

alison is the coolest

January 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

I am super psyched about having an intern. Even if Alison & I weren’t getting anything done, it would be super helpful to me just to have to figure my schedule & projects out every day that we are going to meet up, and to be pushed to articulate & plan what I want to work on & what my next steps are. So that’s great in itself… BUT AND! we are getting a lot of stuff done, and working on projects together that I probably wouldn’t have had the impetus to work on on my own, and she’s also helping me with some stuff like studio organization and finishing the reprints of the “queers” posters

Also having another person around is great for me to be able to look at my process & see where I’m not so organized or putting things off to ill effect, and to be aware of how I’m focusing or failing to focus… Also Alison is good at seeing where distraction and chaos come into the space we’re working in, and good at saying “hey, let’s take steps to take this distraction away”… Which, sometimes, it’s hard for me to say about my own time/space… but when I’m working with somebody else, it legitimizes creating clear space for us to work in, and then gives me an example of how to create that space for myself in the future / when I’m working alone. Hmmm. The upshot is, Alison is great & I feel lucky to get to work with her!

Here is some of her work, just my snapshots of the slightly random selection that happened to be within thirty feet of my desk…

A poster she designed & printed for a show at Witch Club, the mill space she helped create & run this past summer & fall (a slightly mis-printed version, I believe):

A typography zine that she made this fall (cover & selections from internal pages):

She drew the fonts & letterforms for this poster collaboration with Julia Moses:

And this is the flyer she made for the dance party we had at the beginning of January:

She also does “non-poster” CMYK silkscreen work based on her photography… here’s her tumblr page… oh wait & did I mention she’s a radical femme, with at least one secret scheme up her sleeve, and an outspoken queer feminist at RISD (which is an institution that sometimes feels very lacking in queerness or feminism, & can be a difficult place to be either of those things)? Anyways, SO AWESOME.

Right now we’re collaborating on a poster for the *next* queer dance party (second Saturday in February, mark those calendars!).

Some thumbnails & sketches & color test & figuring out the action steps:

Drawing elements for the poster, being combined…

Combined sketch & beginning of letters (& look at that glossy black paper we are going to be attempting to print on, ha ha!):

Okay, well needless to say perhaps, I would most likely have not thought of using this color scheme or this kind of imagery if I were not working with Alison. But I’m generally excited these days about pushing myself in a different direction, or in a bunch of different directions… and I’m reminded again about how collaboration is super useful as a spur to get you to try things you’ve been nervous about tackling….. !


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