WHAT THE PLUS (+) Arts Festival
July 22nd to August 7th, 2021
Moving beyond our inaugural LGBTQ2S+ art festival in 2020, where we focused on the gradient implication of the "+" within LGBTQ2S+, our 'Creative Self-Portrait: Beyond the Selfie' themed show celebrated the queer self-portrait, as a way to furthur develop our local LGBTQ2S+ conversation, as we strive toward greater visibility and understanding in our community.
Self-portraiture holds a particular place in the history of the visual arts, with artists revealing themselves at work, leisure, or play, at different ages and stages in life, in elaborate costumes and roles, and even as unacknowledged guests in works otherwise concerned with other matters: as extras in their own productions.
Ranging from the defiant mug shot, to the floridly theatrical, to different levels of abstraction, creative self portraiture can provide everything from an exclusive peek at the wizard behind the curtain, to a play on the very impossibility of a fixed, or even reveal-able identity, made all the more pronounced when the artist’s own physical body does not match their true felt gender.
Exuberant queer self-representation, both in art and in daily life, is a political act, and partly a reaction to (and a result of) being an invisible minority that only becomes visible upon its actively ‘acting out’ its personal truths and desires. Passing as straight at least some of the time is still the norm, especially where gender non-conformity is cause for alarm, derision, rejection and even violence.
When queer identity does emerge, it may do so not only through our art, words and relationships, but through clothing choices, body sculpting and adornment, as well as surgical modifications. These actions serve to transform our outer selves to be more in tune with our inner selves; to feel comfortable in our own skin, and to ‘find the others’.
LGBTQ2S+ self-portraiture is then not a narcissistic exercise where we inevitably end up revealing what amounts to a cartoon sketch of ourselves: a suspect document rife with performance, lies and wishful thinking. But it is here– between the lines of text, musical notes, brush strokes or film frames, and underneath the make-up, clothes, tattoos or jewellery, that the truth is revealed. It’s perhaps not so much the visual representation of the artist itself within a self-portrait that reveals the subject, but the creative choices they made to get there.
Jenny Allen Taves
Check out the full video of andrea bennet's workshop 'Writing the Self (When the Self is in Flux)'