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by April Ingram
Thursday, Jun. 03, 2004 at 10:21 PM
Transgender artists expressed their talents from spoken word to fine art at "Trans/Giving" on May 29th in West Hollywood.
Trans/Giving is a quarterly event that showcases the collective talents of local transgender artists from all genres: poetry, fine art, comic art, music, photography and performance art. TransGiving gives transgendered artists an opportunity to show their unique contributions to society in an environment where it is OK to be recognized as transgendered.
Stephan Pennington makes the banjo sing with selections that cut across periods in American history. He plucks out the Sunflower Dance which dated from the1890s, and he played melodies from the 1920s and other nostalgic periods. Stephan explained that a banjo once was very popular instrument in America and that World War II led to its demise. Because the banjo was composed of metal parts at the time of recycling and Rosie the Riveter, banjo production fell. After the war, the guitar replaced the banjo as a popular instrument. On stage Stephan quipped, “banjos are the sexiest instrument ever…it has two G strings.” Stephan took up banjo because “It was an instrument no one else was playing.” He taught himself to play while he was enlisted in the military and after his discharge took lessons in the Bay Area to perfect his craft.
Talia Bettcher’s performance of “the Fashion of the Christ” confronts traditional Christian beliefs through music and a conversation with God. Her song lyrics reflect the attitudes of fundamentalist Christian views toward homosexuality: “We believe in good ole Christian values… We don’t let faggots try to marry… We don’t even want them in our state… Jesus won’t let faggots through his gate… Talia also expresses her thoughts on the Christian agenda self-righteousness and superiority through her lyrics: “I’m proud to be a Christian on a mission…marching on to build theocracy… we won’t stop till everyone loves Jesus. Fuck the laws and fuck democracy.” In this sense, religion has no connection with true spirituality, but rather a source of divisiveness and tension among people who have different viewpoints. In another act, Talia converses with God, who is portrayed by a recorded voice coming from above. The voice of God calls her “Michael” referring to the name she was given at birth. “My name is Talia” she says, to which the voice of God replies, “I made you a man….you need to repent…you need to admit you defy the law.” She portrays religion as a system of rules that create conflict and confusion inside a person.
Evocative of sci-fi themes and futurism, Rachel Dunn’s photo collages are stunning. Her cubist-inspired “Lesley” is a portrait of a friend. Here the photograph of Lesley is repeated through a repetition of broken images of the woman’s face. Dunn says her message is to make people aware of the fragmentation the female image often seen in advertisements. She says that breaking up the female image into body parts subliminally creates insecurity among women. In another photo collage, the “Architect,” a young man is intently sitting at a drafting table amidst the expanse of a cathedral like frame where a cloud-filled sky enters through the framework. A portion of the cathedral wall seems to merge into the architect’s drawing. This collage involved manipulation of at least four photographs according to Dunn. You may see samples of her work at her website at http://www.racheldunn.com/
Matt Nishii’s anime inspired comics bring humor to and insight to situations that are common among those who transition from female to male. One drawing is of an FTM at an operating table with the caption, “I said mastectomy not mass add-on me.” In many of his comics, Nishii explores gender identity from both how the transgendered view the world and how mainstream society views them. Not all his comics are transgender in theme—some of them make unique observations on everyday life. http://www.transe-generation.com/
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