Judy Giera on “Sublimating Her Trans Body Through Form”

Judy Giera at her recent exhibition And it can give some joy at Waterloo Arts in Cleveland, Ohio, which closed May 20, 2023 (all photos courtesy the artist)

This article is part of Hyperallergics Pride Month series, featuring an interview with a different transgender or nonbinary emerging artist every weekday throughout the month of June.

We’re kicking off our Pride Month series with Judy Giera, a visual artist based in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Giera creates sculptural mixed-media works she links to the consumer stylings of the 1990s (she even cites Lisa Frank as one of her greatest aesthetic influences). Giera also works as the Collections Manager at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art in Lower Manhattan. Below, she delves into how the work she sees there and her daily experiences as a trans woman influence the art she creates.

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Judy Giera, “Peep Show (Yellow Yarn Rectangle with Green, Blue, Pink and Purple)” (2023), fiber paste, color pencil, yarn, and epoxy resin on panel, 15 x 20 x 2 1/2 inches

Hyperallergic: What is the current focus of your artistic practice?

Judy Giera: I am currently focused on making mixed-media paintings and wall-based sculptures in various scales and sizes. I embrace a theatrical sense of materiality, often mining various aspects of painting, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, and DIY craft in my work. Employing bright fluorescent, metallic, or highly saturated colors, my work draws inspiration from the cheap capitalism of party supply and dollar stores as well as the pop culture aesthetics of the 1990s, the early internet, and what one might expect to see during an acid trip.

The work layers traditional art materials alongside cheap tchotchkes, everyday objects, and personal ephemera into organic compositions often coated in glossy acrylic or epoxy resin. I love works to feel tacky and plastic coated, like old toys or shimmering packaging. I like when unique materials find their way into my work, such as fake teeth, curling ribbon, or needles used as part of hormone therapy, and I like when traditionally soft materials like fake hair, yarn, fabric, or ribbon are modified to be hard, inflexible, and impenetrable.

This material approach to the narratives in my work feels tantamount to how I move through the world as a trans woman: perhaps out of place and seemingly odd, but full of joy and vibing in my own weird and wonderful beauty. 

H: In what ways — if at all — does your gender identity play a role in your experience as an artist?

JG: As a trans woman, my navigation of the world is directly affected by the perceptions of my body and the inherent biases held by the people with whom I interact. The constant performance of self I engage in to maintain my safety while asserting my womanhood employs a variety of tactics — often a mix of humor, redirection, excessive joy, and folly — all serving as measures of resistance against violence and erasure.

Simultaneously, my relationship with my own body, the very thing that signals my trans personhood, is often changing-fluctuating between a sense of loving acceptance and nihilist abjectness. My practice transfigures this reality into the work I make. My work often alludes to the body without flatly depicting it. As a trans woman, my body is seemingly everybody else’s point of interest, I experience everything from invasive inquiries to violent transgressions daily without my consent. I sublimate my trans body through form, color, and symbol. I figure that the world seems to think it has access to my body enough as it is, in my art I get the power to decide how my body appears (if at all), performs, and tells the story.

Judy Giera, “That Thrupple Across the Bar Wants to Buy You A Drink and Show You a Good Time” (2023), acrylic paint, crayon, pastel, vinyl, staples, gauze, glitter, ink, resin, and chain from a purse belonging to the artist on canvas, 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches

H: Which artists inspire your work today? What are your other sources of inspiration?

JG: I am fortunate — on top of my practice, I also work as the Collections Manager for the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, the only museum solely dedicated to LGBTQ+ art. This position allows me to interact with a vast swatch of queer art and artists from art history and the contemporary moment. I am constantly inspired by these works and I find most inspiration from queer artists who use their work as a way to build more beautifully radical futures. Unrelated to this, though, I can say that Lisa Frank is probably the biggest aesthetic influence on my work. I am truly a child of the ’90s in that sense.

H: What are your hopes for the LGBTQIA+ community at the current moment?

JG: My hope is that our allies show up in actual tangible ways, both for the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, but most specifically for trans people. We need our allies to stand up for us right now and not just provide lip service or show performative support by giving money to corporations for Pride. My hope is that the current trend of anti-trans legislation spreading across this country spurs cisgender people everywhere to be outraged and to act on that outrage. I hope our allies educate themselves, vote, speak up, and provide support in every single way they can before it is too late.

Source: Hyperallergic.com

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