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Transgender art exhibit surpasses barriers

BY BRI LaPELUSA | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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Trans-identity is not defined by any clear walls or limitations.

stef shuster [sic], a Trans-identified UI graduate student, said the guidelines aren’t easily definable.

“Everyone’s idea of what ‘Trans’ means is different,” shuster said. “The freedom in not being defined in our binary way of thinking of gender expression and identity has opened up a whole new level. It seems like the freedom in embracing a Trans identity on those terms really is like one’s own sense of self.”

shuster, a photographer, said there are limited resources for Trans-identified artists in Iowa City and saw a need for an event that would raise awareness and understanding. This idea resulted in the creation of the UI’s first Trans Week, a celebration and exploration of Trans idenity.

Trans Week will kick off today at 6 p.m. with Transcending the Wall: An Exhibition of Trans-Identified Artists at the UI Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Resource Center. Admission is free, and all artwork will be displayed through Dec 4.

All artwork, which features photography, sculpture, and mixed media projects, are the creations of Trans-indentified artists. Trans Week will continue next week to include lectures, music, poetry, and a closing candlelight vigil on the Pentacrest.

However, shuster said, the sole intention of both the exhibit and Trans Week as a whole surpasses speaking only to Trans issues.

“[The artwork] is all over the board,” shuster said. “We just wanted to create a space to bring Trans artists together and give them the opportunity to share their work.”

Katrina Rose, a UI teaching assistant who will display photography in the exhibit, agreed with shuster’s sentiment.

“Trans art is simply whatever a Trans person does,” she said.

Rose also said that although a Trans community exists in Iowa City, it’s nearly invisible. Trans Week and the Transcending the Wall exhibit hope to engage the public and help solidify the Trans art community.

shuster stressed the powerful, communicative importance of art among the upcoming week’s events.

“I think there’s something to be said about art — it provides a space for people to really express themselves,” shuster said. “When you combine that with a marginalized identity, the potential for art is really powerful.”

Elizabeth Krause, the manager of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, said that art is a helpful, engaging way to learn about the emotional topics surrounding sexuality and gender.

“Gender identity is something that’s pretty central to humans, it’s close to our sense of self — it’s an emotional area,” she said. “So I feel that art, music, film — those are ways to tap into our emotional selves.”


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