5 Transgender Artists Taking The Art World By Storm

Photograph by Amos Mac for Dazed Magazine © Dazed Magazine & Amos Mac

Long excluded by society and by extension the art world, the LGBT community and more specifically transgender artists are gradually gaining wider visibility. Art is a great way to bring visibility to the LGBT community, whose culture is rich and extensive. Discover with Artsper five transgender artists who disrupt the conventions of LGBT art and through their art learn more about their trials, tribulations and their perception of society.

1. Cassils

Cassils is a transgender artist who uses their own body as material for their almost sculptural performances. His art traces and represents the history of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community. Their inspirations? Feminism, conceptual art, gay masculine aesthetics, Hollywood films, body art… The artist has explored many art forms and mediums, such as live performance, sculpture, photography, sound, film… One of their most famous pieces “Becoming an Image” depicted them punching a block of clay that weighs nearly a ton. This performance, illuminated only by a photographer’s flash, allowed the violent images to be printed on the retina of the spectator, shocking them with each new flash. The artist, always committed, also performs in the sky above the United States.

The project “In Plain Sight” was supported by a group of 80 artists, and led by himself and Rafa Esparza with the goal of denouncing the American culture of incarceration, especially towards immigrants. In this performance, airplanes flew over major US cities writing powerful phrases like “Care, Not Cages” and “Stop Crimmigration Now” in the sky.

Becoming an image by Cassils
“Becoming an Image” by Cassils

2. Yishay Garbasz

Yishay Garbasz is an Israeli-British transgender artist, born in 1970. She expresses herself through a number of disciplines including photography, performance and installation. Yishay Garbasz mainly explores the notions of trauma and post-traumatic memories. This subject is directly related to her family history, especially her mother, a survivor of the concentration camps of the Second World War.

The Israeli-born artist has also lived in many countries, which has provided her with multiple inspirations. For example, she spent some time in Japan in 2014 creating a work called “Ritual and Reality” in the area of the Fukushima nuclear explosion that occurred a year earlier. Her first acclaimed work was made over five years, between 2004 and 2009. “In My Mother’s Footsteps” follows all the traumatic memories inherited from her mother and the artist’s journey to the places where her mother suffered the Holocaust.

This committed artist also works on the problems of identity and invisibility of transgender women in society. Finally, her latest project “Severed Connections: Do what I say or they will kill you” challenges through photography, video and sculpture the physical barriers that governments impose on their population, in order to better control individuals.

Ritual and reality by Yishay Garbasz, transgender artists
“Ritual and Reality” by Yishay Garbasz, Feldman Gallery

3. Amos Mac

Los Angeles based photographer Amos Mac captures portraits of gender non conforming people. Through his colorful shots, he represents the entirety of his subject; their personality, their being, rather than just their gender identity. Amos Mac is inspired by teen magazines, show business aesthetics of the 1990s and 2000s and vintage pictorial representations. Thanks to this joyful mix, his work conveys an exuberant atmosphere, full of colors, humorous and occasionally voluntarily cheesy.

The offbeat humor of this transgender artist, who is above all interested in the personality of his subjects, inevitably brings a breath of fresh air to portrait photography. His work has already been published in the New York Times and Vogue Italia. His most iconic photographic series “Distance is Where the Heart is, Home is Where You Hang Your Heart” was exhibited at Luis de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. Amos Mac is also a writer known for his screenplays for series and films, such as Gossip Girl, Gaycation or No Ordinary Man.

Jacob Tobia by Amos Mac, transgender artists
Jacob Tobia by Amos Mac

4. Wu Tsang

Wu Tsang, who moves between New York, Berlin and Los Angeles, is a transgender performance artist and film maker. She was born in 1982 in the United States. Since the 2000s, her films and videos have been exhibited in prestigious venues such as the Tate Modern in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the MoCA in Los Angeles. The work of this artist of Chinese, Swedish and American descent is mainly inspired by activism, communities and party art.

Her film “Damelo Todo” follows the journey of a young man from El Salvador who moves to the United States in 1985 to escape the civil war in his country. His journey will lead him to question his gender identity through encounters in a Los Angeles bar which is at the forefront of these issues.

Wu Tsang’s work is set within a highly realist context. Her objective is to blend politics with art, with a strong intention of shifting the norms set by a society still too closed-off to gender and sexual identities besides cisgender and heterosexual.

The show is over, Wu Tsang, transgender artists
“The Show is Over” by Wu Tsang, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi

5. Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst

Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are often considered inseparable. With good reason, these two transgender artists have documented their former romantic relationship through the series of photographs titled “Relationship”, exhibited at the Whitney Biennial.  

Zackary Drucker’s work is mostly centered around media such as photography, video, performance and installation. She is primarily interested in the body and its representation through the lens of gender and sexuality.

Rhys Ernst, on the other hand, mainly makes films and videos about transgender identity. In his opinion, today’s society is in transition. It is in the process of moving from an institutionalized patriarchy to a haven of gender equality, which must be encouraged.

Relationship, Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst, trangender artists
“Relationship” by Zackary Drucker & Rhys Ernst ©

Transgender artists, working towards more diversity in art?

Through art, all these LGBT artists above all advocate for their rights and the fair representation of their community as well as the questions around identity and gender. Their main belief? That art can change mentalities and make society more inclusive. These strong personalities have already left their mark on the art world and will continue to do so, bringing with them a progressive liberalization of consciousness. At Artsper, we are excited to see what transgender artists will continue to bring to the art scene in the future! Discover more artworks advocating for diversity and tolerance.

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