“This is a love letter to trans and disabled artists. I see you. I am you. I embody your love. I dedicate my life and my life’s work to you. This is for you….”
I can’t help but notice how pain fuels art. One’s experiences and beliefs inform their work, guiding the painter’s hand. Personally, my transness and my disability are almost indistinct from my art. Dissociation turns to portraiture; painting allows me to materialize the chaos in my mind, the indescribable: organized. Extreme emotional dysregulation is difficult to articulate, especially to those who will hold judgments about this symptom. But the beauty of painting is that a canvas can never judge you.
Both trans people and people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are likely to experience a trauma and a lack of identity validation. Growing up being told that you are A when really you are B or C or even D--your insides and outsides feel mismatched. Being non-binary means your sense of self is scrutinized, interrogated, belittled. Being perceived is my worst nightmare. So rather than perceiving my material existence, I am able to put a buffer made out of wood and canvas structure between perception and I. This makes the world a little less scary, and a little more loveable.
Borderline Personality Disorder can be a scary diagnosis to receive—patients with BPD often experience suicidal ideation and self injurious behaviors. Being trans can be fatal as well. Crimes against disabled and trans people are rising; especially for BIPOC. What feels like a death sentence serves as a catalyst for my art. I don’t know how long I’ll have to live. How much more valuable life is when your time is ticking… and how much more valuable each brush stroke is. Impulsivity guides my hand, paints my realities. Bold white paint cuts canvas, splits images, distorts portraits. A painting of my kitchen becomes an abstraction. So much joy and love stems from the clock ticking over my head. Creativity is the function of my impulse control issues.
A common symptom of BPD is a phenomenon called splitting, where one cannot find a gray area in life. Complex matters are simplified, or split, into yes or no, good or bad; no in-between. I work mainly in black and white paints, showing the viewer how I see the world. Most of my life is reflected in my art in quite literal ways, a big fuck you to traditional metaphoric art. I don’t believe in tip toeing around life, which is intrinsic in my identity. There is so much nuance in disabilities and transness. But the world does not allow us this nuance. It is up to us to create it, to find the gray areas, to state the obvious.
I don’t want to imply that you can’t be a wonderful artist if you’re not tortured, or romanticize trauma in any way. Life as a trans and disabled person is more difficult, terrifying, beautiful, and holy than I can begin to explain. It is not a monolithic experience, nor is it a singular feeling. These complexities, when translated to art, create visceral works. One can begin to understand, sympathize, and love the artist through their emotive work.
This is a love letter to trans and disabled artists. I see you. I am you. I embody your love. I dedicate my life and my life’s work to you. This is for you; Make art, be free, allow yourself to live in abundance. This world may not be on your side, but you can paint it to root for you. Nuance is yours, beauty and pain and love, they are all yours. Put it on a canvas, or some paper, or sculpt it. Art is the ultimate healer. The torture that is life and love is, in fact, curable. Thick oil paints and watered down ink can heal your scars. And if they don’t, allow mine to.
About the Author
Visual Arts Editor
Rosaline is a nineteen-year-old abstract painter, their work focusing primarily on mental illness. Ro hopes to create visibility and safe spaces for trans people in the art world. They love the cubist and surrealist movements, as well as contemporary styles. They analyze works such as Modigliani’s The Jewess through a modern Jewish lens. Ro loves Toni Morrison and their favorite book is Camus’ The Stranger.
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