Final Blog

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Fig. 3.

The drag community has recently become more present in mainstream culture since the hit reality TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, became a fad. Drag is more accepted than ever and yet some people still find the concept of men wishing to be effeminate difficult to swallow. Lady Bunny, a well-known drag queen, points out that drag queens are more likely to be harassed than others included in the LGBTQ+ group because they stand out as effeminate men (The Advocate). Drag queens can’t hide, every time they step outside they are putting themselves at risk due to other people’s lack of acceptance. I think it’s entirely unfair that creativity and self-expression is being squandered because of the societal rules of gender that say a man must be masculine and a woman must be feminine. Drag queens are willing to break those rules to feel at home in their own bodies which is something I admire greatly. I wanted to express these conflicting feelings of frustration and admiration through painting because to me, when I see something that looks like it has taken a lot of time and effort to paint or make, it makes it seem worthy of that time and effort, which I believe drag is.

I found it extremely difficult to find forms of visual activism within the drag community but as I researched, I came to understand that drag itself is visual activism. I mentioned in one of my G+ posts a drag queen called Bob The Drag Queen who when discussing activism said “It can be just as much as going to meet your friends and sing a night of karaoke… where someone thought they were gonna be able to scare you into not doing that, but you did it anyway and you prevailed.” (The Drag Queen). This quote really spoke to me in her saying that visual activism can be as simple as expressing yourself without fear of how others will respond. We can’t control how others will react to our actions, we can only control how we act. Through my painting, I hoped to convey this same idea by showing the process of self-expression in drag. I want to liberate the drag community by exposing it to the general public without fear of judgement towards myself or towards those apart of the drag community.

I believe there is a lot more acceptance of the LGBTQ+ group especially with millennials and that it’s becoming less about whether something is socially acceptable and more about whether it makes somebody happier to be themselves. This means that as an artist working in the 21st Century, it is easier to find people who also want to stand up to injustices and help minorities.

Works Cited

Fig. 3. Getting ready. Personal acrylic painting on canvas by author, 6 June 2017.

Godfrey, Chris. “When Drag is Activism.” The Advocate, 4 Nov 2015, http://www.advocate.com/

current-issue/2015/11/04/when-drag-activism.

The Drag Queen, Bob. “Bob The Drag Queen on the Importance of Living Without Fear.”

Youtube, Uploaded by Logo, 20 June 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlMCQ

49HcDs.

Blog Three: & All That Drag

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fig. 2.

Sam Kirk’s painting, & All That Drag (fig. 2.), liberates the drag community because it projects a nonchalant aura. She is muscular throughout her shoulders, arms and back and has narrow hips like a man, but is posed confidently like a woman. Her expression says “you want me but you can’t have me”, suggesting her comfort in this form. The woman’s skin differs from her dress in colour, but not in pattern, suggesting that women’s clothes are like her second skin. The lines are soft and curvy, like a woman, to contrast the strong and muscular physique of a man. The painting doesn’t express a typically feminine body type as one would normally see in a painting of a woman, instead it exaggerates the body type of a man. All of these aspects together create a painting that gives off an aura of confidence and defiance from the subject. Kirk is liberating the drag community by giving it a chance to be present within society and to be normalised as a way of life.

Kerry James Marshall made a point (Marshall) saying that black people need to be present more in art galleries in order for normalisation of black people within society. The same rule applies with drag. If drag becomes more and more present within society, then it will be accepted as a part of it. By painting drag queens, I am giving them presence which, if continued and developed, could lead to full acceptance of the drag queen community. Drag queens are just people who feel like they have less potential living within the limits of their assigned gender roles. To shame someone for doing what makes them happy and content with themselves is wrong, no matter how ‘different’ they may seem to you.

Works Cited

Fig.2. Kirk, Sam. & All That Drag. N.d, Acrylic on wood, Saatchi Art,

http://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-All-That-Drag/662043/2467702/view.

Marshall, Kerry James. “6 Artists On Black Identity”. Youtube, Uploaded by Louisiana

Channel, 31 Mar 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LySsIQOU1Lg.

Blog Two: Drag Queens

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Fig.1.

After doing some more research, I’ve found that people apart of the Drag Queen community are one of the most harassed in the LGBTQ+ group along with transgender men and women. “The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program’s recent study found that 72 percent of all violent crimes against LGBTQ people in 2013 targeted transgender women, who also made up 67 percent of LGBTQ homicide victims.” (Ford).

Bob the Drag Queen, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season eight, talks about how activism doesn’t have to be a big rally where you lie in the streets and get arrested. Activism can be as simple as refusing to live in fear. “It can be just as much as going to meet your friends and sing a night of karaoke… where someone thought they were gonna be able to scare you into not doing that, but you did it anyway and you prevailed.” (The Drag Queen). For drag queens, visual activism is what they do every time they step outside as the women they want to be. Their way of presenting themselves and being themselves is their way of pushing against unacceptance.

The issue that many people have with Drag Queens is that it’s “wrong” or “unnatural” to wish to be effeminate as a male. But as shown in my last blog, gender roles aren’t inscribed in our brains naturally, they’re rules taught to us since our births. Boys do not come out of the womb disliking dresses or the colour pink. They are taught that they aren’t supposed to like these things because they aren’t linked to masculinity. To be effeminate is to no longer be a man. Why is the idea of gender and what is inside your pants connected? What’s the issue with having male genitalia and also being a woman?

Note: In the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program, “transgender” is used a political umbrella term that includes anybody whose gender identities differ from that which they were assigned at birth.

Works Cited

Fig. 1. Ayllon, David. Bob The Drag Queen- “Neon”. N.d, Photography, David Manuel Ayllon,

http://www.davidayllon.storenvy.com/products/17079507-bob-the-drag-queen-neon.

Ford, Zack. “The Quiet Clash Between Transgender Women and Drag Queens.”

ThinkProgress, 26 June 2014, http://www.thinkprogress.org/the-quiet-clash-between-

transgender-women-and-drag-queens-297a9da4c5f6.

The Drag Queen, Bob. “Bob The Drag Queen on the Importance of Living Without Fear.”

Youtube, Uploaded by Logo, 20 June 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlMCQ49HcDs.

Blog One: Gender Roles

When I was a child, my mother would sometimes take me to the toy section in Farmers. Almost every time we went, she would talk about how unfair it is that boys have “cooler” toys than girls do. She appreciated the stimulation differences between toys targeted at boys and toys targeted at girls which is probably a thought that has crossed many mother’s minds. It disturbs me that from such an early age, we’re encouraged throughout all aspects of our lives to abide by gender roles.

Gender plays a huge part in how we identify ourselves in our communities, but for those who don’t identify with their assigned gender roles, it poses a confliction. The purpose of gender roles doesn’t make sense to me, is it just another way to categorise people and assume their traits? Gender roles are considered very important within societies and yet they aren’t programmed into our brains naturally, they have been taught. “… boy-girl differences are not as “hard-wired” as many parents today, imbued with the Mars/Venus philosophy, believe. Yes, there are innate differences, but we should be aware of how they become magnified through our own parenting, marketing and, especially, kids’ own culture.” (Time Out).

“For many artists, academics and others who see themselves as visual activists, visual culture is a way to create forms of change.” (Mirzoeff 289) As an aspiring artist, I hope to make change in the world through expression of how I see the world. Gender roles are an injustice to people who feel they can’t abide by the societal rules set for them. I hope to express that these rules can be broken through visual art because art is a form of activism that can protest issues in unexpected and impactful ways that words sometimes can’t.

Works Cited

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “Visual Activism.” How to See The World, Pelican, 2015, pp. 289.

Shelly, Maureen. “Lise Eliot Interview”. Time Out, 20 July 2009, https://www.timeout.com/

new-york-kids/new-york-families/lise-eliot-interview.

Submitted Draft

Our cultural identities are becoming increasingly difficult to define over time. It is rare to find someone whose identity isn’t made up of more than one culture but even so, people are finding themselves unaccepted because of how they define their cultural identity. A large part of this problem is due to white culture being considered “the norm” because of its almost exclusive exposure throughout everyday life. Marginalised groups then have to force themselves to be obviously present in mainstream culture (white culture) in order to eventually make it mainstream for them to be accepted as a part of it.

Mainstream culture so exposed in everyday life that it comes across like it is the most accepted culture. This makes it desirable to those apart of marginalised cultural groups because it is natural for humans to long to be accepted in the highest form of the term. But it is challenging for people of marginalised groups to become a part of mainstream culture due to the effects of ‘the white gaze’. “Under that gaze, he cannot be seen for himself but only as a set of clichés and stereotypes.” (Mirzoeff 61). People migrating from marginalised groups into mainstream culture are automatically seen as different and through differences comes prejudice. A main factor contributing to this is the lack of diversity throughout the visual world such as social media, magazines, TV, cinema and art. “…there is virtually no representation of us, young African urban kids in any of these films.” (6 Artists on Black Identity) artist, Wangechi Mutu, exclaims. Mainstream culture is only exposed to what is mainstream, which is white people. This then causes white culture to reject people who do not look mainstream because to them they are almost alien.

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Marshall, Kerry James. Untitled. 2009, Acrylic on PVC, Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago. MCA, http://www.mcachicago.org/ Exhibitions/2016/Kerry-James-Marshall.

This painting by Kerry James Marshall, an African artist living in America, is his way of pushing against white culture’s prejudices and trying to normalise his cultural identity in white culture. In this painting, Marshall represents himself, or his cultural identity, through skin colour. His paintings often feature people with extremely, almost unrealistically dark skin. The purpose of this is to normalise black people within white culture. People of this dark a colour are almost never represented within mainstream media or even media throughout the world. If people of marginalised groups are exposed consistently throughout white culture, eventually they will become a part of it.

In the background, the subject is painting a colour-by-number of a woman that looks almost identical to herself. I think this is a visual representation of the woman’s cultural identity. In the colour-by-number the woman is white, her skin has not yet been painted yet. This plays with the idea that people within mainstream culture are expected to be white. Like a blank canvas, a lot of time and effort needs to be put in to change its expected whiteness, and even then the end result may not be fully accepted as a work of art.

But exposure of marginalised groups throughout mainstream culture is not an easy feat. It takes a lot of time and effort to change the views of mainstream culture. “When people like me, they tell me it is in spite of my color. When they dislike me, they point out that it is not because of my color. Either way, I am locked into the infernal circle.” (Fanon 88). Where we come from is considered a very important part of who we are as individuals and is the basis of much prejudice, when really where we come from only takes up a small part of our identities. The majority of our identities are made up of the experiences we have had, that’s what differentiates one person from another rather than their cultural identity, religion, or colour of their skin. As a people, we act like chameleons, trying to change our colours to fit into our surrounding environment out of fear of prejudice. Cultural diversity is what makes the world exciting and exposes us to learn about new and experiences we wouldn’t be able to without this diversity. With the help of a few courageous lions to push against mainstream culture, acceptance of cultural diversity and identity can be achieved, one of them being artist Roger Shimomura.

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Shimomura, Roger. American Pikachu. 2010, Acrylic on canvas, Flomenhaft Gallery, New York City. National Portrait Gallery, http://www.npg.si.edu/ exhibit/encounter/index.html.

Shimomura pushes against mainstream culture by forcing himself into it. In his artworks, he puts his face onto iconic American cartoon characters, paintings and public figures to show the lack of acceptance of Asian Americans. This painting caught my eye the most because of my initial reaction to it. At first, I thought the painting looked creepy and juxtaposed as there is an old man’s face on Pikachu, an American children’s character. But on further analysis, I found that his face was intentionally made to look like it didn’t fit into the picture to portray the idea that Shimomura feels he doesn’t fit into American/white culture. When I first saw this painting, I rejected Shimomura’s attempt at being this character. I was so used to seeing Pikachu in a certain way growing up that I instinctively didn’t accept Shimomura’s defacing the beloved character. Then I realised that Shimomura is using these iconic characters to force us to look at how much of our icons do not include people who do not identify solely with white culture.

People like Shimomura whose cultural identities include more than one culture are not represented and therefore makes them feel alien in the society they are living in. “… I, myself, felt shut out from various identities, American, British, Kenyan, Nigerian, no one ever seemed to be satisfied with my claims of being one or the other or a combination of the four.” (6 Artists on Black Identity) said writer Taiye Selasi. Shimomura’s American Pikachu shows us that is it easy to incorporate and represent other cultures within mainstream culture because so many people within mainstream culture are a combination of many others. All you have to do is get your face out there and show people that it doesn’t matter what culture characters like Pikachu identify with, Pikachu would still be loved even if he did have the face of an old Asian American man.

So who is this “me” anyway? I am the experiences I have had more than I am where I have come from. My birthplace is not the sole aspect that defines me. I am how I define myself and other people have no right to depict where I fit in according to this definition. Our cultural identities have a very small part in what makes us who we are, yet it is often the determining factor of acceptance in mainstream culture. We need to expose cultures of marginalised groups in mainstream culture instead of leaving them out, forcing them to obviously present themselves just so they can be seen. Mainstream culture should not be white, it should be every colour there is, only that way can all cultures be represented equally and therefore accepted outside of their marginalised groups. Mainstream culture must continue to be confronted by people such as Marshall and Shimomura in order for eventual total acceptance throughout cultures.

 

Works Cited

Fanon, Frantz, and Charles Lam. “The Fact Of Blackness.” Black Skin, White Masks, Grove

Press Inc, 1967, pp. 88.

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “How To See Yourself”. How to See the World, Pelican, 2015, pp. 61

“6 Artists On Black Identity”. Youtube, Uploaded by Louisiana Channel, 31 Mar 2016,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LySsIQOU1Lg

My Chosen Images

I chose images of paintings because I am doing a Fine Arts degree so I wanted to practice analysing paintings which are most common in the Fine Arts world. I also just found them both really interesting in different ways. Marshall’s painting is sophisticated and piercing whereas Shimomura’s is cartoonish and comical. Both are eye-catching and both are paintings of the like I have never experienced before and they both challenge the idea of cultural identity in different forms of the term. These paintings are going to assist in bringing my ideas across in my essay very effectively.

My Chosen References

“Under that gaze, he cannot be seen for himself but only as a set of clichés and stereotypes.”

Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “How To See Yourself”. How to See the World, Pelican, 2015, pp. 61

“When people like me, they tell me it is in spite of my color. When they dislike me, they point out that it is not because of my color. Either way, I am locked into the infernal circle.” 

Fanon, Frantz, and Charles Lam. “The Fact Of Blackness.” Black Skin, White Masks, Grove

Press Inc, 1967, pp. 88.

“…there is virtually no representation of us, young African urban kids in any of these films.”

“… I, myself, felt shut out from various identities, American, British, Kenyan, Nigerian, no one ever seemed to be satisfied with my claims of being one or the other or a combination of the four.”

“6 Artists On Black Identity”. Youtube, Uploaded by Louisiana Channel, 31 Mar 2016,

These sources are reliable because two are quotes from novels written by established authors (Mirzoeff and Fanon) and the others are quotes said by established artist (Wangechi Mutu) and established writer (Taiye Selasi) on popular Youtube channel, Louisiana Channel. I think these references can effectively back up my claims because they come from reliable educational sources written or said by people who care and are passionate about cultural identity.