Matt Hufford is the 2016 recipient of the 14th annual Library Art Award for his series of 9 paintings. His artwork will be on display in the library for a year starting this summer. Congratulations, Matt!
Portraits of Humanity
I hit refresh and it’s happened again. “Transgender Man With Asperger’s Shot Dead by Arizona Police.” Refresh. The articles flood my screen as the media grieves the loss of a person they misgender. Refresh. The news is forgotten like last week’s gossip. Refresh. Another death. Refresh. A suicide, a life drowned out by the sea of hatred. Refresh. This cycle doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. Refresh. This has to stop.
An educational article about gender appears on my feed. Pronouns are woven into orientation introductions and more people feel safe sharing who they are. I watch as people devour the information, consuming it so rapidly that our identities are discredited, accused of being a “fad.” Refresh, another death. Our smiles are buried beneath the sensationalized headlines, the statistics so dark that our colors are eclipsed by night. Haunted by fear, hatred, and stigma, these warped perceptions rob us of our names, our lives, and our humanity. I’ve had enough. Our smiles are forgotten, so I’m immortalizing them on canvas. Society tries to mask our shine, so I’m sculpting us with a thousand different colors. And because they don’t see that we’re human, I’m painting portraits of our humanity.
I began this project with the intention of painting a series of portraits of transgender and non-binary individuals who attend the University of Puget Sound, but when I put out a call to the trans community on campus, no trans women contacted me. Although many non-binary individuals and a few trans men expressed interest in participating in my project, the silence of “her” struck me. The representation felt inadequate, so I decided to create portrait-less paintings that will serve as temporary placeholders inviting future participation in my project, mourning the lives lost within the trans community, and waiting for the day when trans women who would like to participate in my project feel safe enough to be visible.