Gender Unbound Art Fest Seeks to Give Visibility to Gender Diverse Artists
Art is important because art is representation — it’s the way we tell stories about ourselves and the way we explain what it’s like to be our type of human. It’s also how we empathize with others and understand what their life experience is like — a win, win for everyone, truly.
And suffice it to say, in the whole, wide history of art, certain stories are more represented than others — namely, cis, white, and male stories.
“There's not a ton of spaces that are designed or created for trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming art,” says Drew Riley, the artist responsible for producing the first year of Gender Unbound Art Fest, a gender diversity art fest being held this Saturday, September 24, at Soma Vida, here in Austin.
That basic fact was the impetus behind the conception and execution of the festival, which will feature work from 12 different visual artists and music from 4 different bands. Already used to hosting her own shows, Riley is hoping the event will provide visibility to the trans and gender diverse arts community.
“It is hard with visual art for people to see the external presentation that I’m showing them of the gender but not know anything past it,” says Riley. “And that's the problem I think a lot of people have understanding trans issues.”
As Riley sees it, art is the perfect medium to help explore those issues.
“It can be complicated but that's the artist's job, right, is to play with all of those concepts of body, identity, and presentation, like social presentation, around gender,” she says.
In her own work, Riley does this by including written stories with each of her paintings, allowing the viewer to go deeper than the external. Another exhibited artist, Shaun Lee, is challenging expected genitalia shapes by representing the genitalia of gender diverse people, including those undergoing hormone therapy.
Gender Unbound also seeks to mix art with advocacy by educating visitors on trans and intersex issues.
"Just by the nature of showcasing artists of a marginalized group, you end up with accidental education," says Riley.