Marsh Portrait, 2021
acrylic and oil on stretched canvas
Following the deaths of my grandfather (Ken) and my aunt (Julie), I received the box of my uncle’s clothing. It was recovered from her basement by my grandmother, Val, and handed off to my sister to be passed along to me. The collection had been stashed away since his passing in 1994, before my birth… articles were preserved, neatly creased and boxed longer than I had even existed, like a queer time capsule. It is through interactions with these articles of Marty’s that I began to realize my non-binariness in a safe and slow manner.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Almost in the same way depictions of St. Sebastian have been co-opted to communicate homosexuality, I’ve noticed Botticelli’s depiction of Venus has become something of a queer motif. I’ve choreographed a similar pose to convey a degree of femininity, clutching around my chest and torso rather than covering a nude pelvic region. Here, the focus is Marty’s Hanes Bill Blass Collection briefs. Though I’m not floating into the shores of Cypress on a scallop shell, there is reference to the Botticelli painting through the marshy body of water in the background and the vintage Shell Petroleum keychain attached to the front right belt loop of Marty’s Levi jeans. Additionally, I have included cattails in the composition, which are both a staple of Midwestern marshlands and included in the lower left hand corner of Botticelli’s composition. In a lot of ways, this is a depiction of a birth as well; me coming into my non-binariness on the rural stage. It felt appropriate to reference the iconic Renaissance painting as an image of femininity and a celebration of newness.
The birds above are male and female Red-winged Blackbirds. Considering the studies of Bruce Bagemihl, the bird in the lower left foreground exhibits evidence of bilateral gynandromorphism (“half male, half female”) through its red epaulets, and ‘female’ striping on the head.