by Barbara Marie Minney
The times in which we live are full of high anxiety and depression due to the pandemic and the unrest and divisiveness in our country. Therefore, anything that shines a light into the general malaise hanging over the world should be brightly illuminated. That is the case with the Inside Out Trans Art Project that recently went live on the Internet.
Inside Out is a community-based art initiative started in Cincinnati and is led by trans artist and Inside Out creator, Jay DeFazio, in collaboration with SOS Art. Jay is a licensed art educator, artist, and trans activist from Northern Kentucky. He has worked with many local organizations including ArtWorks, Cincinnati Art and Technology Studios, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Cincinnati Opera, the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and countless local high schools around Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. He is a board member for SOS Art. Jay is also involved with the non-profit Love Must Win where he is Director of LGBTQ+ Art Programs for its Arts Must Win initiative.
The purpose of the Inside Out Trans Art Project is to celebrate the strength, beauty, and resiliency of transgender individuals. Participants attended socially distanced workshops where they were taught art techniques, took part in group discussions, and created mixed-media self-portraits and accompanying statements in a safe environment that allowed them to express their authentic selves. The portraits and accompanying statements focused on acceptance and love in the company of others facing similar struggles.
This Project is important because transitioning or the process of living authentically is an emotional and sometimes physical process which often involves loss and is often done alone. Inside Out combines art, community, and therapy into a cathartic session on self-acceptance and appreciation. Its goal is to unify the trans community in a tangible, lasting way and bring hope, safety, and freedom to individuals grappling with the dichotomy of their assigned and innate genders.
My own involvement with the Inside Out Trans Art Project began when I received an email from Saad Ghosn of SOS Art inviting me to participate by creating a poem that would accompany one of the self-portraits in an anticipated anthology. I was invited because I previously contributed two poems to the anthology “For a Better World 2020: Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice.”
I immediately accepted the challenge and was provided with a heart wrenching self-portrait and the accompanying statement of one of the participants. This happened to correspond with a writing/spiritual retreat that my wife and I had planned to a treehouse cabin in Amish Country, and I was able to write the poem in that beautiful setting while trying to express in words the emotions, thoughts, and feelings that the artist had expressed in their self-portrait.
After submitting my poem, I was quite surprised to receive a follow-up email from Saad inquiring if I would be interested in creating my own self-portrait. I had to think about that for a few moments, because I am a poet without any artistic talent whatsoever, or so I thought. However, after a Zoom session with Jay, during which he explained the different art techniques that I could use, I agreed to do my own self-portrait. The process of doing the self-portrait and the accompanying statement was indeed therapeutic and helped me to take a closer look at myself and what I was experiencing at the time. Of course, everyone is a critic, and my wife had some suggestions, most of which I ignored. But, do not tell her that.
The Inside Out Trans Art Project is indeed something to be celebrated. The Project brought together members of the transgender community to participate in a collaborative and supportive art experience. It also allowed participants, including myself as both a poet and an artist, to practice techniques that recognize self-worth, translate their identity into artwork, and interact with others who can inspire and help them through the often-isolating process of transition.
By virtually exhibiting the work, the Project can further trans visibility. Please visit the virtual exhibit for an emotional, thought provoking, and sometimes heart-breaking look into the struggles and triumphs faced by transgender individuals. You will not be sorry.
- Check out the Inside Out Trans Art Project by visiting their website.
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, and speaker. She is a retired attorney and originally from West Virginia. Now based in Tallmadge, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award. Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.