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Arien Reed

Trans Artist
Painting Trans People

Throughout history and still largely today, people who are trans are often deadnamed, misgendered, and portrayed in the media as villains, freaks, and jokes (usually all three, as in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) or as pitiful corpses (ie, as hate crime murder victims on shows like CSI: Miami.) When featured on talk shows ostensibly to talk about their careers or talents, trans celebrities are instead interrogated about their past identities, current genitals, or medical history. The lack of education about trans people and gender diversity in the public education systems is compounded by these public portrayals of wildly inaccurate caricatures and ridiculous reactions by cisgender celebrities in a way that effectively trains our ignorant nation to treat trans people poorly by responding with disrespect, intrusive curiosity, fear, disgust, horror, sexual objectification, and sometimes even violence. Our true narratives have been discarded, our experiences rewritten or erased, our  concerns ignored, and our voices suppressed in every way. Additionally, many trans folks are not only struggling to overcome transphobic oppression, discrimination, and margnizalization, but also homophobia, biphobia, racism, sizeism, ageism, misogynism, trans-misogynism, ableism, slut-shaming, beautism, and ugly-shaming. Internally, many of us struggle to overcome our own body dysmorphia, or one or more mental illnesses, on top of our gender dysphoria. For these reasons, my art is inclusive of all trans bodies and experiences. To incorporate anti-racism into my every brushstroke, my works also attempt to destigmatize darkness. In my art, "dark" is not synonymous with “depressing,” “disturbing,” or “evil" but is better interpreted as strength, bravery, and beauty.
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beauTiful bodies

This in-progress collection features trans folks who are well-known by the trans community as activists, actors, elite athletes, etc. but are largely unheard of in mainstream society. By making these people’s bodies the focus of my efforts, but depicting them in varying amounts of clothing, my intention is not to further fetishize trans bodies, but to increase the visibility of trans bodies in the world of portrait art and to encourage the public to see the beauty in them, not just the ways in which they differ from cisgender bodies. 

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This in-progress collection is dedicated to honoring recent and historical U.S. trans persons who should be mentioned in History, English Literature, and other educational courses, but whom have always been, and continue to be, erased from public and private educational curriculum nation-wide. By featuring these historic figures, I’m attempting to overcome this cultural erasure by increasing the public's awareness of their existence and thus their brave contributions to U.S. history and human rights by bringing them into the U.S. artistic cultural narrative.

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This in-progress collection features trans people, both well-known and not, because true understanding of the trans community is derived not just from amplifying the voices of celebrities, but also those of ordinary citizens. Many trans people are so scared of the cisgender community that they live their entire lives pretending to be cisgender—not only silencing themselves but also denying the cisgender community the personal growth that is only possible when they knowingly interact with a trans person. In this collection I use negative space as a metaphor for silencing, and color and darkness as a metaphor for the daily strength and courage it takes to overcome the constant suppresion of our existence, experiences, truth, and concerns.

My Creative Process in Action

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