Arien Reed

Mixed media artist bringing gender diversity into the world of fine art

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. Our true narratives have been discarded, our experiences rewritten or erased, our concerns ignored, and our rights to public restrooms, education, sports, employment, welfare, housing, and all other basic human needs randomly rewritten, replaced, or removed. 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 of us struggle to overcome our own body dysmorphia, or one or more mental illnesses or mental disabilities, on top of our gender dysphoria. For these reasons, my art is inclusive of all gender diverse bodies and the lived experiences of the human beings who happen to inhabit them. 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 the strength and bravery it takes to be visibly trans in a heavily biased world.

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 tendency for daydreaming, forgetting, and getting sidetracked, 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 starting in 2016 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, and--after a decade of denying his true talent--began drawing and painting again as a way of reassuring himself that being transgender did not make him taboo, alone, or unlovable, despite what many 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-Spirit and transsexual 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, 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 budget technician 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 have/adopt two kids in the near future, and volunteers a LOT for his local LGBTQ 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.

Yes, I accept commissions from people who are cisgender, too!

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The Collections

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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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The Unerasure

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.


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 my own personal love of anime and manga, and my desire to see trans people represented in these forms.

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The Prints

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How the Chaos Comes Alive...

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