The transgender community faces constant discrimination. Some artists have been touched by this violence and are aware of the issues of identity that trouble the community. As such, they explore these challenges through the medium of art. Unlike queer art, which promotes a life without gender labels and restrictions, transgender art criticizes the fake normality transexual and androgynous members suffer.
For years, artists have expressed their nonconformity through art: performances, collages, paintings, and films. Their aim has been to carry this message to a larger public, so they can understand the worries trans have to deal with on a daily basis. They give an insight into the fears they face when going under the knife to finally match their bodies with their feelings.
There are countless disciplines they have mastered that put their movement and concerns on the map. Even those that are not avid art followers know of their existence and are more empathetic to the worries and barriers the community faces each day.
Here are some incredible transgender artists that you should keep your eye on:
Based in Berlin, Germany since 2006, Vaginal Davis has become known for her interdisciplinary performance in the arts and sciences. Her aim is to explore sexuality and race issues. She is also known as Dr. Vaginal Davis, Vaginal Creme Davis, and Mistress Veronika V'intrest. She was born in LA, California and her trajectory has ranged from filmmaker and music producer to journalist, writer, and performance artist.
Justin Vivian Bond
She is a painter and performance artist who explores the social identities and the role models of the quotidian world. She is described as the best cabaret artist of her generation, and this drag queen is a full blown tornado in the world of art and activism. Her claim to fame began when she formed part of the duet Kiki and Herb under the name Kiki Durane. She is a Tony nominee and has received countless awards, like GLAAD, Obie, Bessie, Ehtyl, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She prefers to be referred to as Mx, instead of Ms or Mr.
Her exhibitions, photography, and cinema explore traumatic and post-traumatic experiences. Her mission is to reflect the problems of identity and invisibility that trans women experience, and this is seen across her work. She studied photography with Stephen Shore in Bard College. Her project, Becoming, explores her own body and the changes it underwent after a year of her sex reassignment surgery.
Amos Mac's images explore the world of art and fashion of transgender models like Har Nef and Valentijn De Hingh. He has worked as a photographer and writer in Original Plumbing and Tanslady Fanzine. The masculine trans culture has been transformed thanks to his creative power.
Juliana is a visual artist, DJ, poet, and the muse of sculptor and artist, Frank Benson. Born and bred in Texas, she moved to New York and graduated from Bard College. She is the cofounder of the queer party #ShockvalueNYC. She has carried out impressive projects for the LGBT community and is member of the House of Ladosha.
She is a visual artist who has worked in photography, performance, cinematography projects, and exhibitions. Based in LA, her work centers on the body and its relation to gender and sexuality. Zackary is also co-producer of the award-winning TV series, Transparent.
Rhys Ernst is a filmmaker and artist. His work investigates transgender identity in the context of larger narratives, and seeks to develop and expand the portrayal of trans lives in media. In many occasions he has worked alongside Zackary Drucker. Ernst was nominated for a 2015 Emmy Award for directing and producing the webseries Transparent: This Is Me, which won a Special Recognition GLAAD Award. In 2016 he teamed up with Focus Features to create the online series We’ve Been Around, a collection of short films on transgender pioneers.
A performance artist and moviemaker based in LA, Wu's main concern is to show the importance of gender and underground cultures. She directed the documentary Wildness, which received an award by MoMA. It was also shown across multiple film festivals in Canada, US, and Chile. Tsang explores the stereotypes that surround the transgender and queer community.
This artist based in Brooklyn employs watercolor techniques, collages, textiles, and multimedia to explore the politics of transgender and feminism. Born in Boston, she has always used art as a form of protest and celebration. She seeks to honor her loved ones and the iconic symbols of the queer and feministic cultures.
Candy Darling was an actress who starred in several of Andy Warhol's films like Flesh and Women in Revolt. She was also the muse of the band The Velvet Underground and of some artists from The Factory. She was photographed by Peter Hujar and appeared in the cover of the album I am a Bird Now, which was the second album of the New York band Antony and the Johnsons. They were awarded the Mercury Music in 2005. She continues to be a muse of many artists and contemporary musicians.
Cassils is a Canadian artist who uses the body as an object that can be sculpted to generate a discourse on the challenges of gender. Cassils forges a series of powerfully trained bodies for different performative purposes. It is with sweat, blood and sinew that Cassils constructs a visual critique around ideologies and histories. Bashing through gendered binaries, Cassils performs transgender not as a crossing from one sex to another, but rather as a continual process of becoming, a form of embodiment that works in a space of indeterminacy, spasm and slipperiness.
Greer is known for working with papier mâché dolls that are based on personal friends. Lankton works in New York and employs a sweet and ironic sense of humor. Greer has become a symbol in the New York art's arena. In addition, Lankton studied in the Art Institute of Chicago and in the Pratt Institute in New York.
She is an artist and academic who has carried out several studies on the movements of the transgender community and people of color. Through dance and performance, she explores theories on migration and diaspora. She also uses digital technology in her performance.
Based in London, Evan Ifekoya works with cinematic techniques, performance, and sound to create a dialogue and debate around the body. Evan explores concepts like cultural appropriation and identity through the arts.
British artist, Patrick Staff explores the concept of identity through experimental short films and performances. In the short film The Foundation, Staff explores his connections with the oldest queer community.