Other Beautiful Things
The project Other Beautiful Things was a means to explore my interest in people who fall in-between traditional classifications of gender and race. Utilizing my freedom as an artist, I began soliciting in-person interviews with people who self-identify as both bi-racial and gender-neutral. At that time the expressions "post-racial" and "fluid gender identity" were being bandied about in the news; simultaneously, same-sex marriage had become legal. Even with these new insights and advancements, I wondered if, in our hopes of moving beyond limiting classifications and discriminatory practices, we were able to truly understand these complex experiences. With artistic freedom away from polite, societal restrictions, I began delving into what it means to move through this world as "Other." Happily, I found people enthusiastically willing to share their insights and experiences. Often interviewing these individuals in tight New York City public spaces, I quickly noticed the obvious preoccupation of some people with my subjects and in turn our conversations. People would openly stare and boldly listen in. With these reactions and obvious uneasiness, I realized this was still an extremely provocative issue for most, even in New York City. As these reactions kept continuously occurring, it made my resolve even stronger to bring this topic to light through my art work.
Wanting to narrow my focus and build a personal connection to my model, I chose to work with only one individual. While spending time together in public I noticed looks of attraction in some men’s gazes, but then, realizing their confusion over his gender, their interest was replaced by uneasiness and anger over a perceived deception. The possibility of their escalating violence toward my model was very alarming for me to envision. But after some self-reflection, I also realized that at times I have reacted similarly to people at first, but later I would see them as alluring or beautiful.
I began exploring where else in our world similar ambiguities and tensions occur. I identified these characteristics in certain animals, insects, botanical, works of art and religious iconography. I became interested in conjoining the humanness of my model to these non-human aspects in order to create new entities. Working as if I were like a divine architect, it seemed only appropriate to personally produce all aspects of these images, by conceptualizing and physically laying hands on every aspect. I would revisit my existing talents and build new skills in a range of techniques: traditional photography, digital manipulation, painting, sculpture, fashion design, sewing, installation, hair and make-up. Because of the personal connection to this work, it felt very important that each image be created by me from beginning to end, so as to be fully a part of me. In creating the hybrid identities of Other Beautiful Things, I hope viewers can take away a new appreciation for the “Other” as different but beautiful in its own right.