15 Revolutionary and Influential Transgender Artists Who Refuse to Be Invisible

Today marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Amos Mac. Image: Courtesy of We Happy Trans.
Image: storify.com.

Image: Courtesy www.storify.com.

Each year since 1998, November 20th has commemorated those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. The numbers of those lost this year are already staggering. Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project collects information about homicides worldwide, and reports that 1,731 reported killings have occurred from 2008-2014.

Beyond issues of violence, there are obvious issues of visibility and inequality that affect the trans community. Writer Juliet Jacques explores these issues in the art world in a recent article for Frieze through Juliana Huxtable’s presence at the New Museum’s Triennial this year.”The radicalism of Juliana (2014-15) lies not just in the technological potential that it signifies, but also in the very act of bringing a trans woman of colour into a prominent New York gallery,” she writes. “Not only does this confront the audience with a body that defies conventional categories, it also suggests possibilities to people who may not have seen someone like themselves in such a space before.”

In celebration of lives lived despite the odds, here are 15 transgender artists, both historic and contemporary, whose myriad talents span genres.

Vaginal Davis. Image: Courtesy the artist's website.

Vaginal Davis.
Image: Courtesy the artist’s website.

1. Vaginal Davis
Berlin-based performance artist Vaginal Davis critiques sexuality and race. In the New Yorker, Hilton Als writes: “The Davis persona is confrontational, and shrieks what the superego would rather keep buried.”

Justin Vivian Bond.Image: Courtesy the artist's website. © 2012 A.L. Steiner.

Justin Vivian Bond.
Image: Courtesy the artist’s website. © 2012 A.L. Steiner.

2. Justin Vivian Bond
Justin Vivian Bond is a painter and performance artist who is often found at Joe’s Pub in New York. Mx’s recent exhibition at Vitrine Gallery in London, “My Model/MySelf,” explores aspirational thinking as relates to identity and role models.

Yishay Garbasz, Then number project performance (Video still) (2011). Image: Courtesy of Tokyo Wonder Site.

Yishay Garbasz, Then number project performance (Video still) (2011). Image: Courtesy of Tokyo Wonder Site.

3. Yishay Garbasz
British-Israeli Garbasz is based in Berlin. Working across photography, film, and installation, her practice takes a close look at trauma and the post-traumatic experience.

Amos Mac. Image: Courtesy of We Happy Trans.

Amos Mac. Image: Courtesy of We Happy Trans.

4. Amos Mac
Photographer, writer, and publisher of Original Plumbing and Translady Fanzine, Mac’s images span the fashion and art worlds. He has collaborated with artists Zackary Drucker and Juliana Huxtable, and shot a campaign for H&M-owned & Other Stories with transgender models Hari Nef and Valentijn De Hingh.

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled (2014). Courtesy of the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York, NY.

Juliana Huxtable, Untitled (2014). Courtesy of the New Museum, 235 Bowery, New York, NY.

5. Juliana Huxtable
Julian Huxtable is a New York-based visual artist who is also a DJ, poet, and model. She was included in the 2015 New Museum Triennial, “Surround Audience,” as both a participant and muse, with artist Frank Benson sculpting her likeness for his work Juliana (2015).

Zackary Drucker. Image: Courtesy of the artist, photo by Amos Mac.

Zackary Drucker. Image: Courtesy of the artist, photo by Amos Mac.

6. Zackary Drucker
A visual artist who works across photography, performance, film, and installation, Los Angeles-based Zackary Drucker’s practice focuses on the body as it relates to gender and sexuality. She is also a co-producer on the award-winning television series “Transparent” with Rhys Ernst.

Rhys Ernst. Image: Courtesy of the artist.

Rhys Ernst. Image: Courtesy of the artist.

7. Rhys Ernst
Filmmaker and artist Rhys Ernst probes ideas surrounding transgender identity and how they are worked into larger narratives. He frequently collaborates with Zackary Drucker, and their photographic series Relationship (2008-13) was shown in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Wu TsangPhoto: Tumblr

Wu Tsang.
Photo: Tumblr.

8. Wu Tsang
Wu Tsang is an artist, performer, and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her practice focuses on gender fluidity, subcultures, and community assembly, and how “counterculture and underground culture [can act] as spaces of resistance.”

Tuesday Smillie, Untitled (2008). Image: Courtesy of the artist.

Tuesday Smillie, Untitled (2008). Image: Courtesy of the artist.

9. Tuesday Smillie
We are fans of Tuesday Weld, so we have an instant soft spot for Tuesday Smillie, who is the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art’s inaugural resident artist. The Brooklyn-based artist’s work employs watercolor, collage, and textiles as media to explore transgender-feminist politics.

Andy Warhol (left) and Candy Darling (right). Image: Tumblr, photo by Peter Baer.

Andy Warhol (left) and Candy Darling (right). Image: Tumblr, photo by Peter Baer.

10. Candy Darling
Candy Darling was an actress who starred in Andy Warhol‘s films Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971) . The Factory regular was also a muse to the band the Velvet Underground, and was famously photographed by Peter Hujar, and featured on the cover of Antony’s 2005 Mercury Prize-winning album I Am a Bird Now. She remains a muse to artists, musicians, and other creative spirits.

Heather Cassils, still from performance of Becoming An Image, (2013). Image: Courtesy of the artist and Alejandro Santiago.

Heather Cassils, still from performance of Becoming An Image, (2013). Image: Courtesy of the artist and Alejandro Santiago.

11. Heather Cassils
The Canadian artist, who often goes by Cassils, uses his body as a sculptural object to challenge gender binaries. The Los Angeles-based performance artist incorporates physical training and sport science into his practice.

Peter Hujar, Greer Lankton in a Fashion Pose (I) (1983). Image: Courtesy of The Peter Hujar Archive.

Peter Hujar, Greer Lankton in a Fashion Pose (I) (1983).
Image: Courtesy of The Peter Hujar Archive.

12. Greer Lankton
Greer Lankton was known for crafting dolls modeled on her friends she worked with New York City. “Beautiful, glamorous, fragile, with a disarming sweetness and an ironic wit,” artist Nan Goldin writes about Lankton in Artforum. Lankton was a staple of the East Village art world, and finally received a much-needed posthumous show at Participant Inc. in New York last year.

Micha Cárdenas. Image: Courtesy of the artist.

Micha Cárdenas. Image: Courtesy of the artist.

13. Micha Cárdenas
As an artist and academic, Micha Cárdenas researches “movement” of transgender people of color within the digital realm, whereby movement can be physical (performance, dance) or theoretical (migration, mobility). Her practice uses digital technologies within her performances.

Evan Ifekoya. Image: Courtesy of the South Bank Centre.

Evan Ifekoya. Image: Courtesy of the South Bank Centre.

14. Evan Ifekoya
London-based Evan Ifekoya works within film, performance, and sound to interrogate the political as it relates to the body. The artist blends archival materials into a practice that reflects on appropriation in culture, in addition to questions of identity and the “preciousness” of art.

Patrick Staff, The Foundation (2014). Image courtesy of the artist/World of Tom of Finland.

Patrick Staff, The Foundation (2014). Image courtesy of the artist/World of Tom of Finland.

15. Patrick Staff
Living and working both in London and Los Angeles, British artist Patrick Staff explores the concept of identity through films and performances. Staff’s recent film The Foundation (2015) was filmed at the Tom of Finland‘s home and archives in Los Angeles and explores the artist’s connection to an older queer community.


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