Gender Euphoria: Contemporary Art Beyond the Binary opened July 9, 2020 on Five Oaks Museum’s website. In order to prioritize everyone’s health, the exhibition is entirely non-location based, and includes a website gallery, social media content, interactive programming, and artist-led projects. In this shift of Gender Euphoria to a virtual form, I hope to demonstrate the adaptability and fluidity that characterize many individual’s experiences of transness and genderqueerness. The artists, museum team, and myself, the curator, will use digital technologies to share content, as well as analog strategies that speak to the history of queer folks connecting across time and space.
The exhibition resists dominant heteronormative culture by bringing together images of gender euphoria, envisioning a world that respects the diverse lived experiences of trans contemporary artists and their communities. Gender Euphoria features artworks by trans and gender non-conforming artists who explore feelings of delight, bliss, and elation in genderqueerness. Selected through an open call, the included artists embody a variety of non-normative gender expressions. The exhibition depicts diverse truths about gender identity, and opposes the reification of a singular, dominant narrative of genderqueerness. I have included numerous non-binary artists, who are often excluded from trans discourse and representation, which center binary transitions. The featured artists explore the intersections between their racial and cultural identities and gender expression. The artworks and programming spark and make space for complex and crucial conversations about identity.
This exhibition was conceptualized before the current, urgent protests for Black lives. While Gender Euphoria is not a Black-led project, I use the exhibition’s Instagram platform to amplify the vital content coming out of the Black Lives Matter movement, share resources, and affirm that Black trans lives matter. We remember and demand justice for Tete Gulley, Tony McDade, Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Tatiana Hall, Draya McCarty, Shakie Peters, and the many other Black trans people who have been murdered by the combination of white supremacy, anti-Blackness, and transphobia. This exhibition of contemporary art by trans and genderqueer artists shares goals of collective liberation and justice with the Black Lives Matter movement. People who are excluded by dominant cultural structures have the powerful ability to envision radical and transformative justice, and this exhibition offers a platform for those perspectives.
All contemporary genderqueer art owes a debt to our Black trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming ancestors and contemporaries, including Marsha P. Johnson, Mykki Blanco, Vaginal Davis, Tourmaline, Juliana Huxtable, and many more. The creativity and envisioning of liberated futures that are embodied in Gender Euphoria are interconnected with the movements for Black lives and Black liberation.
All Gender Euphoria events and programming are free and open to anyone who would like to register. The social practice projects by Lo Moran and Zeph Fishlyn are structured around and depend upon participation. These elements encourage viewers to engage with the exhibition in personal, in-depth ways. You might learn more about gender identity or experience gender euphoria yourself through seeing the artwork, attending an event, or participating in a project.
In solidarity with all who fight for Black and trans liberation and envision the other worlds that are possible,
Becca Owen (they/them), Guest Curator
Zeph Fishlyn – they/them
Pace Taylor – they/them
Rya Hueston (Diné [Navajo] and Hopi) – she/her
RaiNE Brabender – they/them
Arthur Burns – he/him
Ebenezer Galluzzo – he/him
Lo Moran – they/them
Liberty Morey – they/them and he/him
Hailey Tayathy (Quileute) – they/them or anything said respectfully
Ingemar Hagen-Keith – s(he)
Forest Svendgard-Lang – they/them and he/him
Ursa Nuffer-Rodriguez – they/them and elle
Programs and social practice projects:
July 8, 5pm PST: Member preview of exhibition on museum website
July 9, 12pm PST: Exhibition opens on museum website
July 9 – August 9, ongoing:
July 9, 7pm PST: Drag performance by Hailey Tayathy with live streamed Q & A session
View the recording here!
On opening night of Gender Euphoria, Hailey Tayathy (Quileute) will premiere a new drag performance that is shaped by their queer Native identity.
July 10, 11am PST: Live streamed brunch conversation and Q & A
View the recording here!
Becca Owen, the guest curator of Gender Euphoria, and Molly Alloy, Co-Director of Five Oaks Museum, will discuss the process of curating and creating Gender Euphoria and their experiences as non-binary arts and culture professionals.
July 11, 1pm PST: Live streamed participatory zine making workshop with Liberty Morey
View the recording here!
Featured artist Liberty Morey will host a zine making workshop inviting participants to explore personal identity, gender, and bodies through a creative lens.
August 8, 10:30am PST: Live streamed Conversion Therapy: Queering the World interactive workshop with Lo Moran
View the recording here!
Featured artist Lo Moran will facilitate this participatory workshop, in which you will discuss and practice “therapies” that allow all people to see themselves on spectrums of gender and sexuality, which can be experimented with and queered with intimate freedom and radical community support.
Welcome to the image gallery!
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Click on an artist’s name to link to their page, where you can view all of their works included in this exhibition and read their bio and statement.
I firmly believe that there is no singular, correct understanding of an artwork or an exhibition, and that each viewer has unique and valid responses to these works. Just as Gender Euphoria: Contemporary Art Beyond the Binary displays pluralistic and diverse genderqueer identities and expressions, it also elicits varied and personal interpretations. The descriptions and analyses below are evoked for me by this collection of artworks, and give some insight into my subjective role as curator.
Many of the artists featured in Gender Euphoria use depictions of the human body in their work to explore trans identities. RaiNE Brabender (they/them) uses their photographic self-portraits to embrace fatness, Blackness, and queerness, powerfully asserting that the people who inhabit marginalized bodies are beautiful, important, and strong. The domestic interior settings of SmoothBoulderz and GlowandStretch recall that many queer and trans folks use the contemporary selfie as an everyday practice of self portraiture, whether or not they see it as art. The circulation of these images is life-affirming. Ebenezer Galluzzo (he/him) uses a hybridizing, additive process to create his mixed-media photographs, and his artistic process helps him find pride and self-acceptance in his trans identity. Works like Blossoming and Sphere from Heaven defy the gender binary by mixing gendered signifiers. Arthur Burns’ (he/him) whimsical illustrations are a joyful celebration of transmasculine bodies, whose top surgery scars and prickly, bushy body hair represent one of the many experiences of transmasculinity. Forest Svendgard-Lang’s (they/them and he/him) T Thursdays and It’s Tits reflect their personal experiences with testosterone and top surgery. Forest invites viewers to engage with his experience with medical transition through a coloring book. Liberty Morey’s (they/them and he/him) collages, drawings, and zines make bodies abstract and ambiguous to the point of genderlessness, dissassociating sex from gender. Whether these artists turn their gaze on their own bodies or represent other trans people, they depict and explore bodies by using affirming representation, playing with gender signifiers, and abstracting to the point of ambiguity.
Some of the featured artists celebrate gender non-conformity in their work by depicting nude trans bodies and drawing the robust connection between sexuality and gender euphoria. Zeph Fishlyn’s (they/them) Anthropomopolyology hankies and zine are a playful retort to the homophobic idea that queer sexuality is “unnatural.” Ebenezer’s poetic images frequently include strap-ons. Ingemar Hagen-Keith’s (s[he]) sculpture A Third Leg removes the phallus from an abstract body. RaiNE’s Ham.and.a.Half depicts empowerment in sexual subjecthood. These works challenge the taboo that surrounds trans nudity and sexuality, and reveal how nudity and sexuality are often reserved in mainstream representation for dominant bodies: straight, cisgender, able-bodied, thin, and white.
Several featured artists affirm the importance and vitality of queer and trans friendship, love and community for creating gender euphoria. Pace Taylor’s (they/them) drawings gorgeously depict intimacy between queer folks. Ursa Nuffer-Rodriguez (they/them and elle) works with their genderqueer photographic subjects to capture friendship and kinship. Zeph’s social practice project Sum of its Parts brings people together to collectively author queer portraits and envision future genders, using analog strategies that evoke long-distance, pre-internet connections forged by rural queer folks. The queer kinship depicted by these artists is essential to the survival and euphoria of genderqueer individuals and communities.
History, assemblage, liminality, and worldmaking emerge as related themes in Gender Euphoria. History is told, re-told, and queered by these artists. Rya Hueston’s (she/her) Self Portrait does not depict her body, but her portrait is just as intimate and self-reflective. Rya assembles archives of personal and indigenous histories in each of her works. Ebenezer’s Divine recalls religious symbolism and art historical composition, making his trans body the revered subject. Lo Moran’s (they/them) Conversion Therapy: Queering the World morphs the painful history of religious conversion therapy into a queer-affirming experience and workshop that advances the “gay agenda.” Hailey Tayathy’s (they/them) Indigiqueer drag performance recounts a queered telling of a Quileute legend. Some of the included works propose alternative gendered landscapes and worlds: Liberty’s True Neutral and In the Flesh zines depict the dissolving of binary gender and transformation of flesh; Ingemar’s Denim Hides is a genre-defying object that explores entropy, transformation, and assemblage. These works assert that there is euphoria in breaking down and destroying systems of knowledge, being, and order as we know them, taking the pieces that serve us, and creating new worlds.
My work and thinking is perpetually inspired by José Esteban Muñoz, whose writing has inspired many of us who work in queer visual cultures. As you view and reflect on Gender Euphoria, you may find yourself considering Muñoz’s statement about queer futurity from his book Cruising Utopia: “We must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds. Queerness is a longing that propels us onward, beyond romances of the negative and toiling in the present. Queerness is that thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough, and indeed something is missing.” Gender Euphoria offers glimpses of euphoric worlds.
Becca Owen (they/them) is the Five Oaks Museum Summer 2020 Guest Curator. Becca is a genderqueer, non-binary art historian, curator, and arts administrator. They hold a BA in art history and queer studies from Sarah Lawrence College, and will begin work on their PhD in art history, visual cultures, and gender and women’s studies this fall at University of Wisconsin – Madison. Their past experience includes working as the Head Curator of the Open Show at the Lake Oswego Festival of the Arts, a Visitor Services Lead at the Portland Art Museum, and an Engagement Fellow at the Museum of Art and Design in New York.
Imperial Sovereign Rose Court of Oregon