IB Art year 2 Student Juliet Bennett- Levy reflects on gender transitions and identity as her concentration
When I started thinking about my concentration, I wanted to explore the concept of transition. The transitions between genders that transgender young people experience are thought of as ugly and something that should not be seen.
Often, transgender celebrities will go into a period of hiding after they announce their new identity while they undergo whatever medical changes they need to look how they want, and then reenter society looking completely different. This process keeps the transitional period out of the public eye, and makes people with ambiguous gender presentation seem unnatural. I believe that this is not the best was to handle transgender people in the public eye, since it makes encounters between cisgender and transgender people more uncomfortable and prevents understanding. I decided to paint transgender young people to try to document this stage in their lives, and my show is a celebration of these in-between people.
I decided to ask people to send me pictures they took of themselves for me to paint. I asked them to choose a picture that they felt confident in, and to explain all the reasons why they felt confident in that picture. In addition, I asked everyone for a list of the ways they identify themselves. I found their answers surprising, because people interpreted the prompt differently.
My goal for this list was to help humanize the people in my paintings, so that my audience could get to know them better and imagine them as complex people rather than just strangers.
To further emphasize this spectrum (and transition) concept, I decided to arrange the pieces (in my exhibit) on a scale from feminine expression to masculine expression.