Arien Reed

Multi-media artist increasing trans visibility one painting at a time

 

Commissions are open to all genders!

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The Collections

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True
Colors

This in-progress series features ordinary trans folks and emphasizes who they are on the inside. While most of Reed's collections usually focus on trans identities, trans bodies, and gender-related experiences, this collection takes a looser approach. People who are trans also have passions, beliefs, families, cultures, hobbies, and hopes. Being trans does affect their lives a lot, but sometimes their diverse gender is all people see about them, when in truth, they are that and also so, so much more. Colorful liberties and splashes of abstraction are stylistic themes common to this series.

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beauTiful bodies

This in-progress collection features trans folks who are well-known by the trans community, such as activists, actors, and athletes, but are largely unknown to mainstream society. By making these people’s bodies the focus of his efforts, but depicting them in varying amounts of clothing, Reed's intention is not to further fetishize trans people, 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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The Unerasure
Project

This in-progress collection is dedicated to honoring 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, Reed hopes to help 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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The 
Unsilencing
Collection

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 Reed uses 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 suppression of trans existence, experiences, truth, and concerns.

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Tranime (Trans Anime)

People who are trans (transgender or non-binary) are under-represented in anime films, anime artwork, and manga, among many other forms of cultural representation within the Nihong and Japanese American cultures. It is rare to see a side-character in a manga or anime film who is trans, much less a protagonist (main character) who is trans. This series stems from Reed's own personal love of anime and manga, and his desire to see trans people represented in these forms. But, he is a realism artist, and thus this technique shows up in his own personal anime drawing style, making his works distinct from other anime artists.

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About the Art Work

Dismantling bias one painting at a time

Throughout history and still largely today, people who are gender diverse are often deadnamed, misgendered, and portrayed in the media as villains, freaks, and jokes (sometimes 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 discuss their careers or talents, trans celebrities are instead interrogated about their past identities, current genitals, or medical history. The lack of diversity inclusive curriculum 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 with disrespect, intrusive curiosity, fear, disgust, horror, sexual objectification, and sometimes even violence. Trans people's true narratives have been discarded, their experiences rewritten or erased, their concerns ignored, and their rights to public restrooms, education, sports, employment, welfare, housing, and all other basic human needs randomly rewritten, replaced, or removed by cisgender people. Additionally, many transgender and gender-diverse folks are not only struggling to overcome transphobic discrimination and margnizalization, but also homophobia, biphobia, racism, sizeism, ageism, misogynism, trans-misogynism, ableism, slut-shaming, ugly-shaming, body hair shaming, and other forms of body-policing and identity-based oppression. Internally, many are struggling to overcome their own body dysmorphia, or one or more mental illnesses or mental disabilities, on top of their gender dysphoria. For these reasons, Reed's art is inclusive of all gender diverse people and their lived experiences. To incorporate anti-racism into his every brushstroke, Reed's works also attempt to destigmatize darkness. "In my art, 'dark' is not synonymous with 'depressing,' 'disturbing,' or 'evil' but is better interpreted as the strength and bravery it takes to be visibly trans in a heavily biased world."
 
 

Commissions are open to all genders!

About the Artist

"...he plans to keep rubbing goop onto paper until 'normal' people drag him away..."

Arien Reed is a genderfluid freak of nature who began painting and drawing when he was a disastrously misunderstood child. He discontinued his artistic hobby at age 18 in favor of stumbling around Fresno State University and splitting pencil skirts along every seam in an attempt to become a functioning and contributing member of society, whatever the heck that was supposed to mean. To meet the financial demands of tuition, and, you know, adulting, he abandoned his hobbies along with his punk wardrobe in favor of professional, female attire and multiple, simultaneous part-time jobs...gross. Though initially an art major, he changed his major more times than most people erase their more-interesting browser history, eventually settling on a "realistic" and "stable" bachelors in accounting which resulted in a salary two whole dollars above minimum wage, and unfathomable tedium. After realizing he was perfectly ill-suited to the rigors of public accounting thanks to his ADD-related inability to be detail-oriented (he identifies as detail-disoriented), he retreated to the more inclusive and progressive environment of Fresno City College's Disabled Students Programs & Services where he worked full time as a budget technician from 2016 to 2022 while completing his MFA in Creative Writing from National University. He gradually returned to his everything-nonconforming roots, came out as transgender and medically transitioned, andafter a decade of denying his true talentbegan drawing and painting again as a way of reassuring himself that being transgender did not make him taboo, alone, or unlovable, despite what many (former) friends and random strangers online enjoyed telling him. Making art about trans people meant talking to trans people, learning about trans history and trans culture, and studying trans bodies. Doing so meant seeing the beauty of trans bodies, realizing the incredible bravery of historical Two-Spirits and trans activists, and being humbled by the layered obstacles gender-diverse people everywhere are facing right now, especially people of color, people who are old or very young, who possess disabilities, who learned English as a second language, who are undocumented, and who are not skinny or pretty according to societal norms.

Starting in 2019, Reed pursued his education in art in his own helter skelter way, starting with eager experimentation and awkward mistakes, a bookshelf of books on art technique, and then YouTube tutorials by artists who clearly had their mediums and style waaaay more figured out than he did. To care for his in-laws and also make time for his creative passions, he reluctantly abandoned his salaried job in 2022 and is now enrolled in both the Kirsty Partridge Art Academy (studying drawing and watercolor) and the Milan Art Institute (studying oil painting and mixed media), both of which are unaccredited as fudge, but are very affordable and flexible for someone who is financially and physically caring for his in-laws, hoping to become a trans dad and/or foster dad, and volunteers a LOT for his local transgender community. Because he is generally an unstoppable force of timid carnage who has declared war against normative assumptions, he plans to keep rubbing goop onto paper until "normal" people drag him away kicking and screaming, or until he wakes up and realizes he was just a painting dreaming that he was a person.

Commissions are open to all genders!

Influences, Inspirations, and Style

"I've been experimenting my whole life, and I think I always will be."

On the surface, Reed's style may seem as difficult to pin down or describe as his nonconforming gender. As Reed confessed to a fellow trans performer while preparing to deliver a poem onstage at a trans fundraiser in 2022, "I use a different label for my gender almost every time I'm asked to provide one. It's not intentional, I'm just experimenting. I've been experimenting my whole life, and I think I always will be." The same can be said of his artistic style, which features a vast diversity of techniques, mediums, substrates, subject matter, emotions, intentions, and color pallets. His works may be digital, watercolor on 11x14-inch paper, oil on 36x48-inch stretched canvas, or a two-story graffiti mural spray-painted onto the side of a building. But there are some consistent stylistic choices that signify each work as "very Arien." For instance,  his works consistently feature realism—particularly portraits and figurative works derived from live or photographed transgender models—with occasional abstract backgrounds, if there is a background at all. Looking through his works, one can also feel his preference for femininity and nonconformity. And there is no mistaking the fact that his tones and hues tend to comprise vibrant colors, negative space, deep contrasts, and color pallets that (if restricted at all) are monochromatic or are restricted to pride flag colors, such as trans pride, non-binary pride, bisexual pride, and others.

The capital letter A in his signature has been increasingly resembling the anarchist symbol as he learns to embrace the chaos of his fluid gender. The dot in the lower case letter i is not a dot at all, but upon close inspection, can be found to be in the shape of a tiny heart. As Reed once stated in a poem, "Love is at the center of 
everything worth doing" though he has also confessed that he experiences insecurity that the heart symbol is cliche, even though all of his art does come from his heart. Before his gender transition, he used to sign his hobby art with a heart replacing the middle letter in his deadname, and since changing to his true name, he wanted to retain the heart within the middle of his signature as a momento of his origins. 

One will find Reed's love of music, dance, and flowers within how his subjects are portrayed. Human hands are also a common feature within his works. While creating "Deliverance"
(a painting featuring approximately one thousand hands) with fellow artist, Laurel Temple, he confessed, "I'm not sure why I so often feature hands. I don't even like drawing hands. Maybe it stems from having been abused and manipulated throughout my childhood, attacked and threatened by strangers due to my small size, nonconforming expression, and/or uncommon gender, and now, watching almost every state in our nation controlling or criminalizing being trans or being a person with a uterus. Since I can remember, countless abled-bodied, cisgender, white strangers and loved ones have treated me more like a possession than a person—hurting me, controlling me, trying to change me, forcing things on me, taking out their own repressed pain on me, asking me intrusive questions they wouldn't ask other people, and deciding what was best for me without ever consulting me. I guess, in a way, I've always felt like there are countless hands on my body, and I just want them to let go. Maybe if I hold up a mirror, show them their actions from their victim's perspective, maybe they'll take a step back and think about their reflection."
 
 
 

Commissions are open to all genders!

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How to Be Included in the Artwork

If you are trans (transgender, non-binary, gender-nonconforming, or otherwise gender-diverse) learn how you can be included in the artwork by messaging Reed here or on Instagram. People of color, people with fat bodies, people above the age of 60, and people with disabilities are especially encouraged to volunteer. All bodies are beautiful and deserve equitable representation in fine art.

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Commissions are open to all genders!

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Commissions are open to all genders!

  • Screen Shot 2022-08-21 at 10.41_edited
  • Instagram
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • TikTok