On March 10, my friends and I spent our Friday night attending the opening of an exhibit entitled VIVID, at the Gallery CA in Baltimore. I had seen the flier on Instagram about the opening a week or two prior and it described the exhibit as “a trans femme & queer led group exhibition that weaves art & data to (re)tell the stories told about us, our own vivid science.” As a person who is passionate about exciting, innovative methods of telling untold stories, I was immediately drawn to the event.
Guest Post by Courtney Stanley
PhD student and researcher Mannat Malik, who co-curated the exhibition, says that the project aims to raise awareness about data and research on transgender people. There is an inherent distrust between the trans community and the legacy of research that has misrepresented the trans experience. Mannat uses VIVID to build a new bridge between the research community and the trans community, centering trans people as the narrators of their research and stories.
The data that is presented and incorporated into the artwork in VIVID comes from a project called the LITE study. The LITE study is the first cohort study of transgender women and transfeminine people in the United States. The study involves 1,100 transgender women from the Eastern and Southern United States, and is based in-person in six cities (Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New York, and Washington D.C.). Though the study focuses on sexual health and HIV, it collects data across a range of health and social issues within the transfeminine community as well.
Art, which is subjective and relies on innate human ingenuity, is a perfect method of communicating such research.
VIVID blends art and science, two subjects that seem to contradict, as a way to humanize quantitative data. Though quantitative data is considered objective, it is based on the realities of human beings. Art, which is subjective and relies on innate human ingenuity, is a perfect method of communicating such research.
The exhibit features the work of three trans-femme, queer artists and encompasses a mix of mediums such as fashion, paintings, and poetry. The exhibit also has an interactive element in which the audience can take photos and share their responses to questions regarding data from the LITE study. VIVID is not only informative, but it allows the audience to engage with the humanity of the trans people who are the foundation of the research.
Daina Reszneki, a New York based artist, became involved with VIVID through her participation in the LITE study. Her work, consisting of three poems and two paintings, is an exploration of self-expression. Daina brings an intimate element to the exhibit, using personal experiences as inspiration for her work.
In her poem, Perceptions, Daina processes the complicated image of her father and their relationship (or lack thereof) as a result of her being a trans woman. The data that coincides with this poem states that around 30% of LITE study participants experience rejection from their families for their gender identity. Perceptions taps into a universal feeling of holding on to the fantasy and memories of a person or relationship, and the hardship of accepting the reality that the situation has changed. Daina hopes that people understand through her art the variety of human experiences that come with being a trans woman.
Around 30% of LITE study participants experience rejection from their families for their gender identity.
East Baltimore native, Terra Swann, embodies what it means to be vivid. Her multidisciplinary art stands out in its use of color, collage, and dolls. Terra draws her artistic inspiration from pop art, European art, and fashion design. Terra wants the audience to gain some fashion inspo and a sense of lightheartedness from her art, to combat the darkness within the world.
One of her works, About town, is a street art collage with black and white bricks and pavement as the background, adorned with bright images of women in elegant fashions. The brick and pavement components are representative of the homelessness that trans people often face. The LITE study had found that about 43% of its participants had experienced homelessness at some point in their life. This piece depicts resilience and making oneself seen in a world that often ignores them.
Coming out of Louisiana, S.M. Prescott is working to pioneer representation for trans and queer people in the South. S.M.’s elaborate banners communicate the various interpretations of positivity in being trans and queer. Horizon, a silver satin banner with a bedazzled horizon, acts as a proclamation of life and an optimistic future for the trans community.
In contrast, a banner like Eucharist challenges the ritual of communion and how the religious community would respond if Christ was HIV positive. S.M. is intentional in centering joy in their work and it is extremely prevalent in their piece Anointed. Anointed is a giant, multi-colored textile composed of numerous fabrics. Sitting at the center of the piece is a bowl with written affirmations on small strips of fabric. This gesture reinforces that being trans is not just enduring hardships but rather embracing the full range of human emotions.
VIVID is a powerful presentation of merging art and data. The exhibit is incredibly successful in building a learning space where the transfeminine community is the voice of authority. Though the artists and curators are from different backgrounds, they produced a cohesive exhibition with a common message of showcasing the layers of transfeminine people. I thoroughly enjoyed VIVID and believe it is a blueprint for formulating holistic educational environments. The exhibit held its closing reception on March 31, 2023 which is also the International Trans Day of Visibility.
© Courtney Stanley (4/7/23) Special for FF2 Media®
LEARN MORE / DO MORE
Learn more about the amazing work the LITE study is doing here.
Check out the Gallery CA on Instagram.
Keep up with SM Prescott’s Instagram.
Check out Terra Swann’s artwork on Instagram.
Learn more about co-curator Rahne Alexander.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured photo: Data presentation from the LITE study at VIVID. Photo taken by FF2 Contributor Courtney Stanley.
Bottom photo: “Untitled” by Terra Swann. Photo taken by FF2 Contributor Courtney Stanley.