Monstrosities: Sarah Ferguson MFA Gradutation Exhibition

Artist Statement

As a genderqueer/trans person, the issue of how to represent my genderfluidity, despite my “female” sexed body and its implications, is all consuming. Art provides a means. The desire to represent myself is the central theme of the work in my exhibition, Monstrosities.

My exhibition contains fourteen photographs divided into two bodies of work. The first, Points of Reference, comprises ten self-portraits that range in scale and are named for the prop or character that is the focal point of the work. Also, included in this group is the four-part series “Portrait of the Artist Wrestling with Themselves”. These works are fashioned in the tradition of feminist self-portraiture, related to dialogues with my body, feminism, gender identity, and my environment, and were made in the early to mid-stages of my program. The second body of work in my exhibition, Conversation Pieces, gives shape to gender dysphoric sensations through the form, colour, appearance, and textures of a grotesque handmade doll. The series revolves around notions of the abject, and marks the beginning of my interactions with transgender theory that occurred in the last year of my program. Its contents and ideas form the basis of my future doctoral research at York University.  

Each series differs in its representational approach, but both are unified by a common subject: my attempts to make my body represent my genderfluidity. The exhibition is also informed by my belief that taking a photograph, making an object, and performing can give agency and physical form to genderfluid feeling, sensation, being and knowing. Art can be a vehicle for solving the problem of genderfluid representation, (representing multiple genders while living in a singularly coded/gendered body), by providing a means for me to transcend the societally read gendered body, and accordingly, the gender binary, cisgendered society, and heteronormativity.

To restate, my physical body is limited or unable to perform the genderfluidity I wish I could express, and it is equally limited by its capacity to express interior states. Photographs and other art forms offer a greater range of representations and possibilities. They are images freed from the body and its social codes and can represent momentary states. They are capable of behaving like bodies without being confined by them. In other words, the photographs in my MFA exhibition illustrate how the art object and its reception can hope to disrupt heteronormative and cisgendered assumptions that Western society imposes on an individual.

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