TransFabulous: Beyond the Binary

The newest Cargill Hall exhibit is part affirmation and part invitation.

‘TransFabulous: Beyond the Binary,’ on display in the Cargill Hall gallery at Minneapolis Central Library, December 3-January 5, features works by 21 Twin Cities artists, all of whom identify as transgender or gender nonconforming.

Earlier this year, Hennepin County Library hosted a series of TransFabulous art workshops for adults and teens, led by artists who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. The exhibit features 39 pieces of selected artwork from these classes, along with additional pieces by other artists. In the exhibit’s second year, the number of artists has increased more than threefold from 2016; organizers credit a combination of word of mouth and a simplified submission process.

A rare opportunity

In a world that speaks mainly in terms of he or she, this is a valuable opportunity, said grey doolin, a teacher and curator for this year’s TransFabulous programming.

“This is such a great program because it’s such a rarity for trans art to be out there,” they said. “In a normative cis[gender] world, transgender people have to carve out their own spaces.”

The exhibit includes painting, drawing, collage, textiles, screenprinting, photography, video and multimedia.

Walking away from gender norms

Artist and curator Chase Underwood is showing a collage of dark urban scenes against a light, pastel portrait of artist Frida Kahlo. Underwood, of Ham Lake, said he is inspired by Kahlo, who famously cast aside gender after her separation from Diego Rivera, cropping her hair and adopting men’s clothing.

Underwood, along with co-curator Zeam Porter, taught a summer TransFabulous workshop on building zines, small, self-published collections of illustrations and writing.

“I was excited to see that the library was going to support trans artists and feature them,” he said. He added that his goal for the exhibit is twofold, to support artists and do their work justice, and to create a tool for people to learn more about the experience of trans people in our community.

Thinking from a new perspective

Together, Underwood and Porter have created another artwork, which unfortunately didn’t survive installation, but may still be represented in some way. The piece was made from mirrors decorated with collages, representing both a binary (he-she) world view and one that is less clear-cut. Viewers were invited to share words that are both gendered and gender-neutral.

“We want to show how the binary is a social construction that we all have a hand in creating,” said Porter, of North Minneapolis. “A nonbinary world is also something we can create and strive for.”
Hennepin County Library is a gathering place for all people in our community, and a place where people from different backgrounds can learn about each other.

"Trans and nonbinary people are constantly told by many parts of society that certain spaces aren't for them,” said Ben Weiss, associate librarian at Minneapolis Central, and one of the program’s project managers. “The library is a place for everyone, especially for people who are excluded elsewhere. It's important that we make that welcoming message known publicly and explicitly."

On Tuesday, December 5, join us for an opening reception from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Doty Board Room at Minneapolis Central Library.

This exhibit is presented in partnership with Transforming Families.