In the course of my residency, I explored the often-fraught relationship between male identity and queer aesthetics through the medium of Shakespearean clothing, which I constructed by hand from found vintage fabrics.
In contemporary spaces, presenting masculinely while embracing queerness is a trying task: where modern masculinity revolves around efficiency and functionality, and is mostly composed of muted tones and minimalist designs, queerness celebrates abundance and joy, and embraces bright colors and adornments for beauty’s sake. The tension between these aesthetics is felt heavily by transmasculine people, who often sit at the crossroad of these two opposing pressures: wanting to be seen by others in the community without outing themselves to greater heteronormative society. This conflict is particularly potent for transgender men. If and when they choose to adopt femme aesthetics within queer culture, they are often misgendered; yet embracing traditionally masculine aesthetics can erase any trace of their queer identity.
Through the clothing I created for my residency, I attempted to probe and challenge the consequences of this aesthetic dichotomy, by exploring - as the name of my project, borrowed from Sonnet 20, implies - the ways in which beauty consists of both masculine and feminine qualities. In addition to using Shakespearean clothing as a medium, I also investigated the many appearances of gender non-conformity and gayness in Shakespeare’s works, through Stephen Guy-Bray’s Shakespeare and Queer Representation, and considered how Elizabethan views on masculinity and beauty informed Elizabethan costume.
The end product of these explorations is a full Elizabethan costume, composed of a shirt and breeches, and complemented by a ruff - created using a 90s children’s curtain. Each garment is a combination of the used - much loved and worn-in found fabric - and the new - hand-stitched precision. The shirt and pants are bright and bold, clashing at points, tailored to fit and augmented with vintage buttons - functional while still beautiful. Together, the costume serves to defy the limitations of ‘traditional masculinity’: revealing that contemporary notions of masculine aesthetics are not primordial or sacred, and positing a more complex vision of masculine beauty.
In terms of identity, it’s difficult to call myself an artist, and to verbally express how and why I make art. To put it simply, I need to express my inner neurotic turmoil to an audience in order to feel grounded in reality, to feel real. While I’ve delved into essentially every art form on the planet at this point, expressing my entirely muddled psyche into experimental films is mainly how I’ve found clarity in muddy waters. My works are essentializations and abstractions of myself at the same time: physical interpretations of things inside me that cannot be expressed in other ways. The drive to continue creating is the rush of sharing these unverbalizable crises with audiences, or rather, people. My goal is for the personal connections I manifest to be grounded in aestheticized, though still very core, human emotion.